In a major breakthrough on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear missile program, that country’s reclusive, and often belligerent leader, has indicated that he wants to completely halt his country’s nuclear program and meet with U.S. President Donald Trump face-to-face to discuss permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
A statement was read late this evening by South Korean national security chief Chung Eui-yong near the entrance to the West Wing of the White House in Washington, relaying Kim’s offer to President Trump, and the President’s acceptance of it.
“I told President Trump that in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He 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,” Chung said.
“President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization,” he added.
It was a stunning development for an area of the world that was on the brink of warfare as recently as months ago.
A high-ranking delegation from South Korea was in North Korea this week to meet with Kim Jong Un. The group, a 10-member delegation, was sent to Pyongyang by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to focus on inter-Korean relations and lay the groundwork for talks, which would include the United States, on the denuclearization of North Korea.
There has been a marked thaw in relations between the two nations in recent weeks that have a been a far cry from the missile tests and tough rhetoric that brought the peninsula to the brink of open hostilities last year.
The U.S. had said repeatedly that they are open to dialogue with the North, but abandonment of their nuclear missile program is a prerequisite to any negotiations. The North Koreans had called that condition “preposterous” as recently as a few days ago.
Then came the announcement from the North that they were ready to talk.
The South Korean delegation was only in Pyongyang for one night, Monday. They returned to Seoul on Tuesday, then flew to the United States to brief their American counterparts on the outcome of their meetings with the North.
President Trump ducked into the White House Press Briefing Room early this evening to tease news of a major announcement forthcoming. Asked by a reporter whether the news would be about talks between the U.S. and the North, the President responded “It’s almost beyond that. Hopefully you will give me credit.”
The White House has said that the President has accepted Kim’s invitation to talk but stressed that there would be no official change in the U.S.’ posture toward North Korea until a final agreement is reached.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the President, “will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,” but that “in the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
A sentiment the President would reemphasize himself on Twitter shortly thereafter.
“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!” the President wrote tonight.