WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Thursday expressed a willingness to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May in response to Kim's invitation to hold the first meeting between leaders of the United States and North Korea, a South Korean envoy said.
Kim has committed to "denuclearization" and to suspending nuclear or missile tests, SouthKorea's National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong told reporters at the White House after briefing Trump on South Korean officials' meeting with Kim on Monday.
A meeting between Kim and Trump, who have exchanged bellicose insults in the past year that have raised fear of war, would mark a dramatic breakthrough in efforts to resolve the tense standoff over North Korea's effort to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
"I told him (Trump) that in our meeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that he's committed to denuclearization," Chung said. "Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests."
"He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible," he said. "President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve denuclearization."
Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
Trump's aides have been wary of North Korea's diplomatic overtures because of its history of reneging on international commitments.
Chung and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon flew to Washington earlier on Thursday to explain North Korea's stance on possible future talks with Washington and the prospect of Pyongyang suspending nuclear tests if the security of the North's government is assured.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that though "talks about talks" might be possible with Pyongyang, denuclearization negotiations were likely a long way off.
(Reporting David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON and Christine Kim in SEOUL, additional reporting by Steve Holland in WASHINGTON, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Aaron Maasho and Kumerra Gemechu in ADDIS ABABA; Editing by Will Dunham, James Dalgleish, Grant McCool)