President Donald Trump has accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's dramatic offer to meet, the White House has confirmed.
The meeting was first announced by South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who claimed it was due to take place by the end of May.
However, a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not confirm the two-month timeplan, and said the place and time of the meeting was still being worked out.
South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong (C-L) meeting US President Donald J. Trump (C) at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 08 March 2018
South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong (L) meeting US President Donald J. Trump (R) at the White House in Washington, DC, USA
'President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,' Sanders said.
'We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.'
Chung, who made the announcement on behalf of South Korea, led the delegation visiting North Korea earlier this week, and the invitation to meet Trump was reportedly made to him directly by Kim Jong Un.
Chung said that Kim understands and accepts the fact that joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises will continue, but that he also made promises to halt nuclear testings until the meeting with Trump takes place.
President Donald Trump has accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's dramatic offer to meet, and he'll do it by May, a South Korean official said Thursday evening
Trump popped into the White House press briefing room on Thursday evening and told a small contingent of reporters who just happened to be present that an announcement was coming this evening
A U.S. official later said the meeting would take place in 'a matter of a couple of months' but did not commit the president to a face-to-face with Kim this spring.
'He [Kim] conveyed that he wants to meet with President Trump as quickly as possible,' the senior official stated.
The senior official said the stiff punishing actions on North Korea would also stay in place.
'At this point we're not even talking about negotiations,' the official said of a plan to hold North Korea to its word that it would freeze its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.
President Trump reiterated the point in a tweet that followed.
'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 U.S. president said.
South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong told U.S. press that the goal of the face-to-face talk is to achieve permanent denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula
The planned meeting of the two world leaders has been met with praise from other nations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomed the news, saying that Russia considers the move 'a step in the right direction.'
He went on to express hope that the agreement would be implemented and that it is 'necessary for normalizing the situation around the Korean peninsula.'
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry in China - North Korea's key ally - said it hopes all parties to the will 'show their political courage' in restarting negotiations, and pledges its support in working toward that goal.
Spokesman Geng Shuang on Friday said China welcomes and supports the 'positive inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea interactions.'
Geng told reporters at a regularly scheduled press briefing that China hope that all parties 'will continue to strive for the political resolution and lasting peace and stability on the peninsula.'
Stiff punishing actions on North Korea will continue, despite the overture, the U.S. stressed
News that Trump had agreed to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent Asian stock markets surging and the yen tumbling.
It provided a springboard for Asian markets, with Seoul surging 1.1 percent and Tokyo ending 0.5 percent higher.
Hong Kong added more than one percent, Sydney and Singapore each rose 0.3 percent, and Shanghai jumped 0.6 percent. Taipei, Manila, Wellington and Mumbai were also higher.
'It's a big deal - there's no question this is a positive move,' Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk research and consulting firm in New York, told Bloomberg TV.
'But also there is the possibility that it could go badly, that Trump could be embarrassed that they make an agreement that Kim Jong Un could backslide on.'
Hopes that the two could reach some sort of agreement also led to a plunge in the yen, which is considered a go-to safe currency in times of volatility and uncertainty. The dollar jumped to its highest level in a week.
Market effect: A South Korean dealer works in front of monitors at the KEB Hana Bank in Seoul, South Korea
Going up: The benchmark South Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 26.37 points to 2,459.45, after the announcement that the leaders of the US and North Korea will meet
The announcement on the White House lawn came almost exactly 24 hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was 'a long way from negotiations' with the North.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the African nation of Djibouti on Friday, Tillerson said the swift turnaround was down to the President.
'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.
'President Trump has said for some time that he was open to talks and he would willingly meet with Kim when conditions were right,' the top U.S. diplomat said.
'And I think in the president's judgment that time has arrived now.'
He said the United States was surprised at how 'forward-leaning' Kim was in his conversations with a visiting South Korean delegation. He said it was the strongest indication to date of Kim's 'not just willingness but really his desire for talks'.
Peace move: Kim Jong Un held face to face talks with South Korea's delegation this week - and has passed a message to Trump offering to meet
Chung had met Kim earlier in the week in Pyongyang, the dictator's capital. After relaying parts of his conversation to reporters in Seoul and appraising South Korean President Moon Jae-in of the situation, Chung flew to Washington.
At the White House on Thursday, Chung and other South Korean officials briefed the president and his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, as well Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, his secretary of defense, James Mattis, and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was traveling abroad in Ethiopia.
WHERE WILL THE SUMMIT BE?
All that has been confirmed so far is that the meeting will take place by the end of May.
If it happens in Pyongyang, Kim is sure to put on a spectacular show for his visitor, but for America it would run the risk of appearing that Trump is coming to pay his respects.
The Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas - where Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are to meet in late April - is probably the favourite at this stage, offering ease of access for both sides, a controlled environment, and facilities already in place.
It would also appeal to the two men's sense of drama.
A more neutral location with less weight of symbolism such as Beijing or Geneva - Kim was educated in Switzerland - would mean the three key players would have to plan events with another host nation.
Furthermore, it would involve a journey on both sides and Kim has not left the North since inheriting power from his father in 2011.
Seoul would most likely be unthinkable to Pyongyang, and Washington even more so, but on the other hand no one would have predicted three months ago that Kim's sister would visit the South Korean capital within weeks.
United Nations headquarters in New York - Trump's home town - would mean Kim stepping on American soil but it has a long history of hosting a rogues´ gallery of world leaders.
Events have moved so far, so quickly and in such unforeseen ways that no option can immediately be ruled out.
'I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his maximum pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture. I expressed President Moon Jae-in's personal gratitude for President Trump's leadership,' Chung said at an outdoor briefing position that's typically used by lawmakers and organization heads who want to speak to the press after White House meetings.
Chung says he relayed Kim's commitment to denuclearization.
'Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,' the South Korean official said.
'President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization,' Chung said.
Trump had pre-empted Chung by saying that South Korea would making a major announcement this evening at 7pm EDT on North Korea.
The president popped into the White House press briefing room on Thursday evening at close of business and told a small contingent of reporters who just happened to be present that an announcement was coming.
The U.S. president gave no indication of what would be declared but suggested with the surprise appearance that the news would be positive.
According to CNN, an excited president turned to Jon Karl of ABC News saying 'hopefully, you will give me credit'.
White House press officers scrambled to make good on Trump's pledge, waiting until just 30 minutes before the time of the announcement to say where it would take place and that the update from would come from Chung.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the planned summit will be a 'historical milestone' that will put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula 'really on track.'
Moon in a statement read out by his spokesman on Friday also complimented Trump for accepting Kim's invitation for a summit, saying Trump's leadership will be praised 'not only by the residents of South and North Korea but every peace-loving person around the world.'
Moon is also preparing for a summit with Kim at a border village between the Koreas in April.
Talks are a 180 from Trump's complaint last fall that Tillerson, his secretary of state, was 'wasting his time' with diplomacy.
Tillerson had suggested that officials from the U.S. and North Korea sit down for talks without preconditions only to have the White House assert that a conversation would only take place if Kim agreed to abandon his nuclear weapons program.
Tensions began to thaw as the Winter Olympics approached. The games, held just across the border from Pyongyang in South Korea, provided an opportunity for the two Koreas to renew ties.
Earlier this week, Chung spent two days in the neighboring country that ended with a proffer to the U.S. to halt nuclear and missile testings and take up talks.
Trump said Tuesday that a 'very good dialogue' had opened up with North Korea as he cautiously approached Pyongyang's proposition.
He told reporters in the Oval Office that the conversations had yielded progress, striking an optimistic tone.
'We're gonna see. We're gonna see,' he told a journalist asking about North Korea's commitment to ending its nuclear weapons program if it no longer felt threatened. 'They seem to be acting positively, but we're gonna see.'
President Donald Trump cautiously approached North Korea's offer to freeze its nuclear program while it holds a 'candid dialogue' with the United States on Tuesday
First, Trump sent out a tweet on Tuesday morning that said, 'We will see what happens!'
The U.S. president said he wants to take the 'proper' pathway, which he suggested was diplomatic talks, 'But we are prepared to go either way.'
'And as I said, hopefully we'll go in the very, very peaceful, beautiful path. We're prepared to go whichever path is necessary,' he added. 'I think we're having very good dialogue, and you're gonna certainly find out very soon what's happening, but we have, we have made progress, there's no question about it.'
That morning, Trump warned North Korean despot Kim Jong-un, 'The U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!'
The U.S. president said then that 'possible progress' toward talks had been made, but it could also be a 'false hope.'
On Saturday evening, Trump said that the North Koreans had reached out and his administration would be meeting with Kim's government.
'They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago and said, 'We would like to talk.' And I said, 'So would we, but you have to de-nuke, you have to de-nuke.' So, let's see what happens,' the president stated. 'But we will be meeting and we'll see if anything positive happens.'
An National Security Council spokesman did not respond to DailyMail.com's request for clarification, and a senior official would not tell reporters during a call on Tuesday afternoon if talks were already under way.
Then he said that talks were 'possible' -- but they could also be a 'false hope' -- and the 'U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction'
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven offered Tuesday during a joint press conference with Trump at the White House to mediate talks with the North Koreans, if that is what Trump wants.
His country maintains an embassy in Pyongyang and serves at the United States' protectorate there.
Löfven said it's not up to Sweden to solve the dispute, however, he believes that the North Koreans trust his nation to act as arbiter.
'If the president decides, the key actors decide, if they want us to help out,' he said, 'we'll be there.'
Other potential meeting places were the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea, in addition to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo.
A senior U.S. official said Thursday evening that Trump had spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The official did not say if a call to China's Xi Jinping was also underway.
Complicating a conversation between Trump and Xi was the U.S. president's announcement on Thursday afternoon that he was slapping a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent penalty on imported aluminum in an aggressive bid to prevent Chinese dumping and boost American metal workers.
Big step: Kim Jong Un,pictured meeting South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, in Pyongyang, has said he is ready to discuss de-nuclearization with the U.S.
A week ago, Trump signaled his openness to a talk with Kim -- if it took place 'under the right conditions.'
'Otherwise, we're not talking,' Trump told United States governors.
He commented that Kim 'wants to talk, as of last night' and said 'we want to talk also.'
Trump went on to make a familiar complaint about his predecessors, blasting former President Bill Clinton and others for failing to keep North Korea in check.
'The Clinton administration spent billions and billions of dollars. They gave them billions. They built things for them. They went out of their way, and the day after the agreement was signed, they continued with nuclear research. It was horrible.'
Continuing, Trump said, 'The Bush administration did nothing — both. The Obama administration wanted to do something. He told me it's the single biggest problem that this country has. But they didn't do anything.
'And it would have been much easier, in those days, than it is now. I think most people understand that. But we've been very tough with them.'
Trump's administration has led an international charge to cripple North Korea's economy and bring Kim to his knees. The advance will not cease, the U.S. has said, until the rogue dictator abandons his nuclear ambitions.
At his White House news conference on Tuesday, Trump said he believes that the North Koreans are sincere in their offer to halt nuclear and missile tests if the United States sits down for talks.
'But I think they're sincere also because the sanctions,' he assessed. 'The sanctions have been very, very strong and very biting. And we don't want that to happen. So I really believe they are sincere. I hope they're sincere. We're going to soon find out.'
The Pyeongchang Games provided a long-awaited opening for the kind of detente that could lead to substantive talks between North Korea and South Korea, along with the United States and its allies.
The two Koreas marched under one flag at the opening ceremony of the games, and Kim sent his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the South to head the North's delegation.
A South Korean envoy lead by Chung returned Tuesday to Seoul from a meeting with Kim in Pyongyang where the North Koreans are said to have offered to halt nuclear tests for the time being if the United States agrees to talks.
Televisions being sold at an Onoden Co. electronics store display a broadcast of a news report on North Korea's Nov. 29 missile launch, showing footage captioned as the launch of the Hwasong-12 missile in September, in Tokyo, Japan
North Korea also expressed its willingness during the two-day summit to put a total moratorium on its nuclear program if the South backs off from military behavior it perceives to be a threat.
Chung said said that Kim promised not to use nuclear or conventional weapons against South Korea in the conversation where the two countries also agreed to open a hotline between their leaders 'to ease military tension and have close coordination' and meet for another round of talks in April.
The next summit is expected to take place in Panmunjom. It will be only the third inter-Korean set of talks ever held and the first in more than a decade.
The last time the rival countries held high-level talks was in 2007, when the North was under Kim's father's command. A summit in 2000 also took place while Kim Jong Il controlled the North. The elder Kim passed away in 2011, giving rise to Kim Jong-un's reign.
Chung said Tuesday that the younger Kim, 34, said he wants to 'write a new history of national reunification' during a four-hour dinner this week in Pyongyang.
US Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement on Thursday that he hoped for peace, but warned Kim that 'it will be the end' of him if he tried to take advantage of Trump.
Other senior US politicans were also skeptical, with Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado saying the 'price of admission' for Trump and Kim meeting must be 'complete, verifiable, and irreversible de-nuclerization of the Korean peninsula.'
Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts says Trump should treat it 'as the beginning of a long diplomatic process' - avoiding 'unscripted' remarks that could derail it.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman had a more positive take, saying that North Korea's desire to talk shows that sanctions are 'starting to work.'
Forrmer NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has traveled several times to North Korea and is one of the few Americans to have met its leader, praised Trump for his decision.
Rodman told The Associated Press he looks forward to returning to the pariah nation for 'basketball diplomacy' in the coming months.
He said: 'Well done, President Trump. You're on the way to a historical meeting no U.S. president has ever done.'
Special guests: Kim Jong Un sits next to his wife Ri Sol-Ju, with his sister Kim Yo-Jong sat to the right of one of the South Korean diplomats during a meal hosted by North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency
As the Olympics unfolded in South Korea, the United States loudly warned the world that Kim was putting on a charm offensive.
Vice President Mike Pence, who led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony, urged the international community, and South Korea, not let up on the North until Kim fully capitulates when it comes to his building of nuclear weapons.
'The policy of the U.S. is the denuclearization of North Korea. The maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. All options are on the table,' a senior official said of Pence's message to Moon as he departed the peninsula.
Pence announced during the trip, and the United States followed up with, a rigorous set of sanctions that the Trump administration described as the largest and most aggressive to date.
Treasury blacklisted one person, 27 companies and 28 ships with the action it says was 'aimed at shutting down North Korea's illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.' The sanctions hit entities in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Singapore and others.
Steve Mnuchin, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, said that nearly all of North Korea's shipping sector had now been targeted. The total number of sanctions steps since 2005 has now hit 45 - with almost half of the actions coming since Trump took office.
At a press conference later in the day, Trump said he'd make preparations for 'phase two' if the punishing actions are not successful, the outcome of which could be 'very, very unfortunate for the world.'
'But hopefully the sanctions will work,' he said during remarks at a joint White House press conference with the Australian prime minister.
The North Korean dictator shakes hands with South Korea's national security director Chung Eui-yong as his sister looks on
No insight: Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government
Envoys for South Korea led by President Moon's national security director, Chung Eui-yong, are on a rare two-day visit to Pyongyang that's expected to focus on how to ease a standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington
A senior administration official told reporters then, 'The president is clearly frustrated and rightly so over the efforts that have failed in the past and also over the uptick in testing and the advances we've seen in the North Korean program.'
In his Tuesday morning tweets on North Korea, Trump said, 'Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned.
'The World is watching and waiting!' he added. 'May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!'
His comment suggested that military action against North Korea is still in his back pocket, despite the decreased likelihood of a confrontation.
President Trump said Saturday evening during a roast at a dinner in Washington that's held off camera that he 'won't rule out direct talks' with Kim.
'As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that's his problem, not mine,' he joked.
Trump went on to say that Kim 'must be a fine man' and that his hardline against North Korea saved the Winter Olympics.
'Without President Trump and his strong attitude they would have never called up and said, 'Hey, we'd love to be in the Olympics together,' ' he recalled South Korea's Moon as saying. 'It was heading for disaster and now we're talking.'
Diving off script in the 35-minute speech that was supposed to stay light and last approximately 10 minutes, Trump said, 'Maybe positive things are happening. I hope that's true, and I say that in all seriousness.
'But we will be meeting, and we'll see if anything positive happens. It's been a long time,' he said. 'It's a problem that should have been fixed a long time ago.'
The insults Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have hurled at each other:
President Donald Trump accepting an offer to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a stunning turn of events after a year of heated verbal warfare that included crude insults and mutual threats of nuclear attacks.
While the move to hold a summit appears to be an effort to ease decades of animosity between the US and North Korea, it comes after months of the two leaders trading insults and Trump threatening to 'totally destroy' the country.
From Trump calling Kim a 'rocket man' and 'short and fat' to the US President being labeled 'mentally deranged' there has been no shortage of nasty insults between the leaders.
So ahead of the summit - for which a time and place is yet to be determined - here is a look at some of the more notable war of words between Trump and Kim so far.
Short and fat:
Back in November last year, Trump hurled an insult at Kim during a trip to Vietnam calling him 'short and fat'.
'Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!' he tweeted.
He was retaliating after North Korean media had labeled Trump as an 'old lunatic'.
During his address to the UN General Assembly back in September, Trump said the US would 'totally destroy North Korea' if forced to defend itself or its allies.
He also referred to Kim as 'Rocket Man' during his speech.
'The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,' Trump said.
'Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.'
Kim hit back to the Rocket Man comments accusing Trump of 'mentally deranged behavior.'
He said he would 'surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire'.
Trump responded on Twitter the following morning: 'Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!'
Kim said that he has a nuclear button on his desk in his New Year's address this year.
In the same speech, he also called for improved relations with South Korea and suggested sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Trump quickly responded saying that he has a bigger and more powerful nuclear button.
'North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!' he tweeted.
Fire and fury:
Ever since Trump was elected, the two leaders have traded barbs about threats of potential nuclear attacks.
After North Korea announced they had tested a series of missiles, Trump said the country had best not make more threats or 'they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.'
North Korea hours later announces a plan to launch a salvo of missiles toward the US territory of Guam, a major military hub in the Pacific.
Other threats of nuclear attacks:
Kim said in his New Year's address in 2017 that preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile had 'reached the final stage.'
A day later Trump, who was then president-elect, tweeted: 'North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US It won't happen!'