U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the White House said Thursday.
A senior South Korean official, who broke news of the invitation and Mr. Trump’s acceptance in an appearance in front of microphones at the White House on Thursday evening, said the meeting could be held by May.
The White House afterward confirmed the invitation but said the “time and place” of the meeting between the two leaders was yet to be determined. The press conference by South Korea’s national-security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, followed his passing of the invitation to Mr. Trump earlier in the day, though news of Mr. Kim’s overture and Mr. Trump’s acceptance appeared to catch several U.S. officials off guard.
The White House said in a statement that all U.S. sanctions on Pyongyang and its strategy of “maximum pressure” on the regime would remain in place.
Mr. Chung said Mr. Kim also reaffirmed that he was prepared to suspend nuclear and missile tests while North Korea engages in talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Chung and South Korea’s intelligence chief, Sun Hoon, met earlier this week in Pyongyang with Mr. Kim.
Trump administration officials had suggested on Wednesday that the U.S. would be prepared to open talks with North Korea if Mr. Kim confirmed that he was prepared to suspend nuclear weapons and missile tests and agreed to discuss eliminating his nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The promise from Mr. Kim to refrain from any testing during talks follows on a similar promise that Mr. Kim made to South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week, when a senior high-level delegation from Seoul visited Pyongyang and shared dinner with Mr. Kim.
Some American officials are wary that North Korea might demand that the U.S. remove troops from South Korea in return or take other steps that would weaken the U.S. military alliance with Seoul.
Mr. Trump had earlier Thursday sought to draw attention to Mr. Chung’s statement by walking into the White House briefing room and telling reporters that they should expect a major announcement.
The move is the latest twist in a long saga of failed diplomacy and threats issues by both sides.
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to play down the prospects of an imminent diplomatic breakthrough or early talks with Pyongyang.
“In terms of direct talks with the United States, and you asked negotiations, we’re a long way from negotiations,” Mr. Tillerson said during a stop in Ethiopia. “We just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.”
North Korea’s leaders have never met a sitting U.S. president, though Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have met with Mr. Kim’s grandfather and father, respectively, after they left the White House.
The two Koreas, who are set to hold a summit meeting of their own in late April at the Panmunjom truce village on the inter-Korean demilitarized zone, have held two such prior meetings. In both of those instances, North Korea had expressed a willingness to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a security guarantee, as they have told the South they are willing to do this time as well.
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Appeared in the March 9, 2018, print edition as ‘North Korea Invites Trump For Talks.’