Kim Jong Un has invited Donald Trump to talk
South Korean officials say Trump will meet with the North Korean leader by May.
Kim Jong Un has invited President Donald Trump to talk about denuclearization — and Trump has agreed to meet with the North Korean leader by the end of May.
South Korean official Chung Eui-yong made the brief but extraordinary announcement at the White House Thursday night, after delivering Kim’s message to the White House.
North Korea has also reportedly agreed to halt nuclear and missile testing, and has not demanded that the United States and South Korea halt military exercises.
The White House confirmed that Trump has agreed to meet with Kim. The president “will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
Trump later tweeted: “Meeting being planned!”
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
This is an astonishing development considering that Trump opened 2018 by taunting Kim, bragging that his nuclear button was “bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s. Indeed, Kim’s overture followed nearly a year of escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
The White House has met North Korea’s missile tests and nuclear advancements with increased pressure — including harsh international sanctions — and bellicose rhetoric. In August, Trump warned North Korea that it would be met with “fire and fury;” Kim responded by threatening to destroy the US territory of Guam.
But as Trump himself said, the details of the meeting are being worked out, and a lot still has to happen to get Trump and Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table. There’s also reason to be skeptical of Kim’s olive branch: North Korea has eagerly pushed for talks with past administrations, and either reneged or introduced untenable demands that derailed negotiations before they could begin.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, says this is an enormous foreign policy win for North Korea. “This is about demonstration that North Korea is an important country that is equal to all the other big countries, even though it’s not,” says Lewis.
That doesn’t mean the United States shouldn’t sit down with North Korea, he adds. “I”m not against the president going, we just have to have realistic expectations about what this is going to be about.”