U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un by May to seek a deal to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, a senior South Korean official said after meeting with Trump at the White House.
"I told President Trump at our meeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he's committed to denuclearization," said South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong, who recently visited Pyongyang.
"Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests," Chung said. "President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization."
"Pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions," Chung said, adding that Kim also agreed that the United States and South Korea will continue joint military exercises during negotiations.
A meeting between Kim and Trump, who have exchanged sharp insults in the past year that have raised fears of war around the world, would mark a dramatic breakthrough in efforts to resolve the tense standoff over North Korea's effort to develop a nuclear missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
The White House and South Korea said that, despite agreeing to the meeting, they will maintain strict sanctions on North Korea. The place for the meeting has not yet been determined, they said.
"Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization...not just a freeze," Trump wrote on Twitter. "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."
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump made the decision to hold talks with North Korea himself, adding that the talks will take "some weeks" to arrange.
"That is a decision the president took himself. I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision and we had a very good conversation," Tillerson told a news conference during a visit to the African nation of Djibouti on March 9.
Reacting to the news, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a meeting between Trump and Kim "is a step in the right direction."
"It should not just be a meeting. It should open up a way to resuming a full-fledged diplomatic process to find a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue on the basis of principles agreed during the six-party talks and the UN Security Council," Lavrov said during a trip to Ethiopia on March 9.
Seoul has previously publicized an offer from North Korea for talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing ties. North and South Korea also agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April.