North Korea's belligerent leader, Kim Jong Un, has asked President Trump for talks and Trump has agreed to meet him "by May", South Korea's national security adviser said at the White House this afternoon (NZT)
Kim has also committed to stopping nuclear and missile testing, even during joint military drills in South Korea next month, Chung Eui Yong told reporters in Washington.
After a year in which North Korea fired intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching all of the United States and tested what is widely thought to have been a hydrogen bomb, such a moratorium would be welcomed by the US and the world.
Trump took to Twitter to say the meeting agreement proved "great progress being made" - but said the current sanctions would remain in the meantime.
Kim "expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible", Chung said. "President Trump said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May." Chung did not provide any information on where the meeting would be.
Chung led a South Korean delegation to North Korea this week, where he had a cordial four-hour dinner with the reclusive Kim. During the meetings in Pyongyang, Kim and his senior cadres expressed a willingness to hold talks with the US and was prepared to discuss denuclearisation and normalising relations.
During the meetings, Kim "made it clear" that it would not resume provocations while engaged in those talks, Chung said when he returned to Seoul from North Korea on Tuesday.
Chung and Suh Hoon, the head of South Korea's intelligence agency who was also at the dinner in Pyongyang, arrived in Washington on Thursday (local time) to brief Trump and his senior officials on the meetings.
In front of the White House Thursday night, Chung credited Trump for bringing the North Korean leader to the table, continuing Seoul's deliberate efforts to flatter the American president.
"I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his maximum pressure strategy brought us to this juncture," Chung said.
It was an extraordinary scene — a foreign official, unaccompanied by US leaders, briefing the press at the White House.
South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong, centre, speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington. Intelligence chief Suh Hoon is at left. (Photo / AP)
Full statement from South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong
Today I had the privilege of briefing President Trump on my recent visit to Pyongyang, North Korea. I'd like to thank President Trump, the Vice President and his wonderful national security team, including my close friend, Gen. McMaster. 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.
I told President Trump that in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is committed to denuclearization. He 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.
President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation. The Republic of Korea, along with the United States, Japan and our many partners around the world, remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Along with President Trump, we are optimistic of our continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.
The Republic of Korea, the United States and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete action.
- Text of South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong's statement