WASHINGTON — President Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May for high-level talks over the denuclearization of the 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.
Kim has agreed to a suspend missile tests while the talks go on, and there was no insistence that the United States and South Korea suspend joint military exercises.
“I explained to President Trump that his leadership, and his maximum pressure policy, along with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture,” South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong told reporters after meeting with Trump at the White House.
Chung met with Kim earlier this week.
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 a high-level delegation to the north this week for the first high-level talks in a decade. He also sent diplomats to Washington Thursday to brief the United States.
The White House didn’t immediately say how it would respond to the invitation, but Trump suggested he was encouraged by the move in an unexpected — and unprecedented — visit to the White House briefing room.
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.
It’s unclear, however, what effect those talks would have on the most pressing question: North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile tests intended to demonstrate that it can launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile.
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.”