The meeting, which would be the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, will take place by May, according to South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who delivered the invitation to Trump after a visit by his delegation to Pyongyang earlier this week.
Trump’s decision to meet Kim, after a year in which the two have repeatedly traded insults, is a remarkable breakthrough — albeit one with uncertain consequences. It brings the North Korean regime close to its long-desired aim of recognition on the international stage, and it offers Trump the tantalizing prospect of a historic diplomatic victory.
The South Korean delegation, which landed in Washington, for a debriefing Thursday on the North-South talks, was careful to praise Trump’s influence over the developments. Chung said the US President’s “leadership” and his administration’s pressure on the North Korean regime had “brought us to this juncture.”
“He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
Trump tweeted that “great progress” had been made but there would be no prospect of lifting sanctions until a deal was reached. South Korea’s President Moon described the announcement as “historic” and and thanked both leaders for seeking a diplomatic solution to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
“This is an almost miraculous event; my administration will prepare toward the May meeting with utmost diligence,” he said in remarks read out in Seoul by a Blue House spokesman.
The stunning announcement was the culmination of a diplomatic whirlwind that began with the invitation of a North Korean delegation to attend the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That event became the venue for a series of carefully orchestrated diplomatic overtures that ended in dramatic fashion at the White House on Thursday.
Trump agreed to meet with Kim within hours of learning of the North Korean leader’s offer. Chung, the South Korean national security adviser, arrived at the White House shortly before 2:30 p.m. to meet with his US counterpart, HR McMaster.
Just minutes after 5pm, Trump poked his head in the White House briefing room to tell reporters South Korea would be making a “major announcement.” Chung’s delegation appeared outside the West Wing about two hours later. In a brief statement to reporters, Chung said Kim “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.”
The North Korean leader had told the South Koreans “he is committed to denuclearisation” and pledged that North Korea would “refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,” Chung said. Kim also told the South Koreans he understands that the US and South Korea would move forward with their joint military exercises later this year.
There are many details to be ironed out before any meeting could take place, not least the location. The Panmunjom truce village in the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), one possible venue, hosted meetings between North and South Korea in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.