President Trump has agreed to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, breaking with long-held U.S. policy as tensions with the isolated Communist regime continue to escalate, a South Korean official announced Thursday.
A member of the South Korean delegation hand-delivered a letter to Trump from Kim late Thursday, national security advisor Chung Eui Yong said during a brief press conference at the White House.
“(Kim) stressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Chung told reporters. “President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”
Kim is “committed” to scaling back his country’s nuclear weapons program and will refrain from any further missile tests, Chung added.
The meeting would mark the first time ever that an American President sits down with a North Korean leader. It would also break with decades-old policy to not meet with leaders from the dictatorship, which the U.S. doesn’t have a diplomatic relationship with.
The nations formally remain in a state of war because of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Trump took to Twitter after Chung’s announcement, patting himself on the back for Kim’s denuclearization pledge.
“Not just a freeze,” Trump tweeted. “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!”
News of the high-profile meeting comes after a tumultuous year between Kim and President Trump.
The two leaders have engaged in an at times asinine war of words, with Kim blasting Trump as a “deranged dotard” and Trump calling him “short and fat” in return.
The U.S. has levied several sanctions packages against North Korea, limiting its regional influence and ability to trade.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said South Korean President Moon Jae In offered Trump some “very nice words” ahead of the announcement.
“We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea,” Sanders said in a statement. “In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
President Trump took office pledging to curb North Korea’s ambition to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching mainland U.S.