US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by May, the White House and a top South Korean official say, in a remarkable turnaround in relations between the two adversaries.
- South Korea says Kim Jong-un expressed "eagerness" to meet Donald Trump
- US officials wary of North Korean commitments given history of reneging
- A South Korean delegation met Mr Kim earlier this week
South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong told reporters outside the White House of the planned meeting, after briefing Mr Trump and other top US officials about rare talks South Korean officials held with Mr Kim in the North Korean capital on Monday.
Mr Chung also announced that Mr Kim had committed to stopping North Korea's nuclear and missile testing.
"[Mr Kim] expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible," Mr Chung said.
"President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation."
But Mr Chung said pressure would continue on North Korea until it matched its words with concrete action.
He also said Mr Kim "understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue".
Trump does not want to 'reward' Kim for talks: official
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Mr Trump would accept the invitation to meet Mr Kim at a place and time to be determined.
"President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon," Ms Sanders said in a statement.
"He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined.
"We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain."
Mr Trump said in a tweet that a meeting was being planned but reiterated that sanctions would remain in place in for the time being.
A senior Trump administration official said they were only "talking about negotiations at this stage" and the President did not want to "reward North Korea for talks".
"President Trump was elected because he is willing to take approaches different from past presidents and that couldn't me more clear than on North Korea policy," he said, adding Mr Trump had "a reputation for making deals".
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he welcomed the "change in North Korea's stance", but agreed pressure on the country needed to continue.
A meeting between Mr Kim and Mr Trump would mark a dramatic breakthrough in efforts to resolve the tense stand-off over North Korea's efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim have exchanged crude insults over the past year, with Mr Trump publicly nicknaming the North Korean leader "little rocket man".
But the North Korean ruler unexpectedly created a diplomatic opening when he offered to send a North Korean delegation to the Olympics and to "alleviate the tensions" with South Korea.
In the same speech, Mr Kim said Pyongyang's missiles could reach the US mainland, prompting Mr Trump to warn he had a "much bigger" and "more powerful" nuclear button.
Mr Trump's aides have been wary of North Korea's diplomatic overtures because of its history of reneging on international commitments and the failure of disarmament efforts by the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama.
Mr Chung and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon flew to Washington earlier on Thursday to explain North Korea's stance on possible future talks with Washington and the prospect of Pyongyang suspending nuclear tests if the security of the North's Government was assured.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said though "talks about talks" might be possible with Pyongyang, denuclearisation negotiations were likely to be a long way off.
Mr Chung's announcement came after a 10-member South Korean delegation went to North Korea earlier this week with hopes of encouraging North Korea and the US to talk to one another.
Seoul has already publicised that North Korea offered talks with the United States on denuclearisation and normalising ties, a potential diplomatic opening after a year of escalating tensions over the North's nuclear and missile tests.
The rival Koreas also agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April.
Both the North and South also notably put their differences aside to present a joint Korean team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.