- South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong informed U.S. press of the expected in-person conversation
- Made the announcement from the North Lawn of the White House, steps from the West Wing
- White House confirmed that talks would take place but did not second Chung’s claim that it would happen before May
- Neither Chung nor the White House said where the talk would take place
- Trump tweeted an hour after the announcement that ‘great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached’
- As part of the initial agreement, Kim said, according to the South Korean government, that he would freeze nuclear and ballistic missile tests
- Kim also understands that the U.S. and South Korea will continue their routine, joint military exercises, officials from both countries stressed
- US Senator Lindsey Graham warned Kim on Thursday that ‘it will be the end’ of him if he tried to take advantage of Trump
President Donald Trump has accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s dramatic offer to meet, and he’ll do it by May, a South Korean official said Thursday evening.
South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong informed U.S. press of the expected in-person conversation and said the goal of the unprecedented meeting between the two countries’ leaders is permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Chung did not say where the meeting would take place.
A half hour after the foreign official announced the meeting steps from the West Wing, the White House confirmed Trump’s participation. But it did not second Chung’s claim that talks would be held within the next two months.
A statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the place and time of the meeting was still being worked out.
‘President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,’ Sanders said. ‘We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.’
A U.S. official said the meeting would take place in ‘a matter of a couple of months’ but did not commit the president to a face-to-face with Kim this spring.
Kim made the overture to U.S. president who has repeatedly called him ‘Little Rocket Man’ orally through Chung, the person said.
‘He conveyed that he wants to meet with President Trump as quickly as possible,’ the senior official stated.
The North Koreans are offering to suspend their nuclear missile testing program, Chung told White House officials before he briefed press from the building’s North Lawn.
Chung said that Kim understands and accepts the fact that joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises will continue.
The senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters after Chung’s televised statement said the stiff punishing actions on North Korea would also stay in place.
‘At this point we’re not even talking about negotiations,’ the official said of a plan to hold North Korea to its word that it would freeze its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.
President Trump reiterated the point in a tweet that followed.
‘Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!’ the U.S. president said.
The announcement on the White House lawn came almost exactly 24 hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was ‘a long way from negotiations’ with the North.
Chung had met Kim earlier in the week in Pyongyang, the dictator’s capital. After relaying parts of his conversation to reporters in Seoul and appraising South Korean President Moon Jae-in of the situation, Chung flew to Washington.
At the White House on Thursday, Chung and other South Korean officials briefed the president and his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, as well Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, his secretary of defense, James Mattis, and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was traveling abroad in Ethiopia.
‘I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his maximum pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture. I expressed President Moon Jae-in’s personal gratitude for President Trump’s leadership,’ Chung said at an outdoor briefing position that’s typically used by lawmakers and organization heads who want to speak to the press after White House meetings.
Chung says he relayed Kim’s commitment to denuclearization.
‘Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,’ the South Korean official said.
‘President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization,’ Chung said.
Trump had pre-empted Chung by saying that South Korea would making a major announcement this evening at 7pm EDT on North Korea.
The president popped into the White House press briefing room on Thursday evening at close of business and told a small contingent of reporters who just happened to be present that an announcement was coming.
The U.S. president gave no indication of what would be declared but suggested with the surprise appearance that the news would be positive.
White House press officers scrambled to make good on Trump’s pledge, waiting until just 30 minutes before the time of the announcement to say where it would take place and that the update from would come from Chung.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the planned summit will be a ‘historical milestone’ that will put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula ‘really on track.’
Moon in a statement read out by his spokesman on Friday also complimented Trump for accepting Kim’s invitation for a summit, saying Trump’s leadership will be praised ‘not only by the residents of South and North Korea but every peace-loving person around the world.’
Moon is also preparing for a summit with Kim at a border village between the Koreas in April.