Trump Agrees to Meet Kim Jong Un
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Trump Agrees to Meet Kim Jong Un

    US President Donald Trump has accepted the idea of meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May, according to White House officials.

    South Korean delegates made the initial announcement at the White House.

    "I told President Trump that in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he's committed to denuclearization," said the chief of South Korea's National Security Office, Chung Eui-Yong. "He 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."

    Chung and his team briefed Trump about what they discussed with Kim earlier this week in Pyongyang.

    "Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze," Trump said in a tweet. He added that sanctions will remain in place until an agreement is reached.

    A Trump-Kim meeting would be the first ever between the leader of North Korea and a sitting US president. There are no specific details of when or where it would take place.

    Tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have fallen since North Korea's participation in the recent PyeongChang Olympics.

    After their meeting with Kim earlier this week, South Korean officials said that the North declared it would have no reason to have nuclear weapons if the safety of its leadership can be guaranteed, and military threats against it were removed.

    The North also reportedly said it would not conduct further nuclear or missile tests as long as communication channels are kept open.

    South Korea's presidential office released a statement in reaction to the news.

    "If the two leaders meet after the South and North Korean summit, the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will enter into a new phase," a spokesperson person. "The meeting in May will be remembered as a historic milestone that created peace on the Korean peninsula."

    The statement thanked Trump and Kim and said the South Korean government would approach the issue in a sincere and cautious manner.

    Political parties in South Korea had similarly positive reactions and were hopeful that the meeting will help address the nuclear threat.

    The announcement is also receiving lots of attention from the media and public. There is speculation on whether the talks will be a turning point for the Korean peninsula. The news has been good for Moon, whose government is getting a lot of credit.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he welcomes the news.

    "Earlier I spoke with President Trump on the phone. North Korea said it will start talks on the premise of denuclearization," he said. "I highly appreciate the country's change in position. It came as a result of cooperation between Japan and the US, as well as strong pressure that Japan, the US, South Korea, and the international community have put on North Korea."

    Abe also said he wants to visit the United States next month to discuss the issue with Trump.

    A leader of a group of Japanese abductee families has also welcomed news of the potential meeting.

    Shigeo Iizuka's sister, Yaeko Taguchi, was abducted in 1978 and taken to North Korea.

    He says a summit between US and North Korean leaders will provide a great opportunity to resolve the issue.

    Iizuka and other abductee family members met President Trump last November. Trump told them that the US will make efforts to have their relatives returned.

    Iizuka said he hopes the US president will take up the abduction issue during the planned talks, in addition to discussing the nuclear and missile question. Iizuka also called on the Japanese government to work to bring back the abductees as early as possible.


    Newsline's Kyoko Tashiro spoke with NHK World's Yoshiyuki Aoki and gave his take on the surprise announcement.

    Kyoko Tashiro: It seems like the situation is changing rapidly. How did we get here?

    Yoshiyuki Aoki: No one expected this to happen--the ''Rocket Man'' Kim meeting the ''mentally deranged'' Trump. It was just a few months ago the two were exchanging threats and insults.

    But things have changed since the start of this year. Kim has shown a more diplomatic approach. He's sent high profile delegates to the Olympics and has met with South Korean officials. Now, he'll meet with Trump.

    Tashiro: It's a sudden turn of events. What do you think Kim's end goal is?

    Aoki: That's what everyone wants to know. Pyongyang says it has no reason to possess nuclear weapons, if military threats are removed from the Korean Peninsula. That would mean the withdrawal of US forces from the South. But Washington and Seoul show no signs of doing that--they even have a joint-drill scheduled next month.

    On the other hand, it could be an attempt by Kim to buy time to develop his weapons programs. North Korea boasts that it has become a nuclear power. And just months ago, it said it now has an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere on the US.

    Tashiro: We know the North has faced rounds of sanctions from the US and the United Nations over its weapons programs. How much do you think those played into this development?

    Aoki: The US and Japan have been pushing a ''maximum pressure'' campaign. And this meeting between Trump and Kim may be an indication it worked. There have been reports that the North's economy has been hit hard by the sanctions. Especially, since China stopped trading with the North on a large scale.

    But I don't think sanctions led to this meeting. The North has other ways to obtain what it wants, whether it's through cyber-attacks or ship-to-ship transfers. But still, I think this announcement caught many by surprise, especially the Japanese government.

    It will be looking for an explanation from the South Korean envoy when he comes to Tokyo next week.