WASHINGTON — President Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May for high-level talks toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, a South Korean official said outside the White House Thursday.
The extraordinary and unexpected opening came through shuttle diplomacy by a South Korean delegation arriving in Washington Thursday. Trump heralded the development as a “major announcement” after speaking with the South Korean president.
“I told President Trump that in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he’s committed to denuclearization. He pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,” South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong told reporters after meeting with Trump at the White House.
Significantly, there was no insistence that the United States and South Korea suspend joint military exercises.
Chung met with Kim earlier this week, and came to Washington Thursday to relay the message from the North Korean leader.
“I explained to President Trump that his leadership, and his maximum pressure policy, along with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture,” he said. The Trump administration has rallied the United Nations to impose ever-tightening sanctions against North Korea following a battery of missile tests.
Trump claimed a diplomatic victory Thursday, telling ABC News, “Hopefully, you will give me credit.”
Hours earlier, Trump hinted at the news in an unexpected — and unprecedented — visit to the White House briefing room, calling it a “major announcement” about a “big subject.”
At a Tuesday press conference, Trump appeared to warm to the idea of talks with North Korea, which he had previously dismissed as “a waste of time.”
“I think that they are sincere,” he said of North Korea’s desire for talks. “I hope they’re sincere. We’re going to soon find out.”
The surprise development follows several weeks of thawing relations between North and South Korea, prompted by the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang under a unified banner.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In sent Chung to North Korea this week as part of the highest-level talks in a decade.
Those talks were seen as a first step toward normalization of relations between the two countries, which have been divided since the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war.
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