US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by May, says a senior South Korean official, claiming that Pyongyang is ready to get rid of its nuclear weapons under certain conditions.
Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security advisor, broke the news in Washington on Thursday, days after meeting with North Korean leaders.
“I told President Trump that at our meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he’s committed to denuclearization,” Chung said.
“He [Kim] understands that the routine joint military exercise between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue and he expressed his eagerness to meet president Trump as soon as possible,” he added.
Pyongyang had in the past denounced joint war games between the US and its regional allies off the Korean Peninsula as a “declaration of war.”
According to Chung, Kim has also agreed to put on halt his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests to address Washington’s main demands.
Chung and the head of South Korea’s intelligence service, Suh Hoon, met with Kim as part of a historic two-day trip to the North earlier this week.
Speaking after briefing Trump, Chung said the US president appreciated the opportunity and vowed to try and “achieve permanent denuclearization.”
‘Maximum pressure must remain’
The White House also confirmed that the meeting was on but Washington had no plans to remove economic sanctions it had imposed on the North yet.
“President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement following South Korea’s announcement. “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,” she noted.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, Trump had teased a “major statement” about North Korea.
Asked whether the announcement was going to be about the country’s military programs, he said, “It’s almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit.”