Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump to meet

Donald Trump says “great progress” is being made, but sanctions on North Korea will remain in place as he prepares for what would be the first meeting between the two countries’ leaders.

The U.S. president’s statement came not long after Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security director, said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had requested the meeting.

Watch the full statement from the South Korean security official.

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump to meet by May2:16

The South Korean official told reporters gathered in Washington that Trump said “he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”

Chung, who recently led a delegation of South Koreans who visited Pyongyang, also said that Kim had pledged that “North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile test.”

He said the Republic of Korea, the U.S. and partners are standing together to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

“The pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions.”

Trump responded on Twitter not long after the press briefing, saying that the meeting is being planned and that sanctions would stay in place until an agreement is reached.

While he was speaking to reporters who had gathered to hear the news, Chung said that Trump’s “maximum pressure policy” and leadership, along with international solidarity, had brought the countries to this point.

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump appreciated South Korea’s words and accepted the invitation.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s said in a statement that Canada has “always believed that a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis is essential and possible.”

Canada and the U.S. recently co-hosted a summit in Vancouver to discuss efforts to find a peaceful path to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapon programs.

Seoul has previously publicized that North Korea offered talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing 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.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he plans to visit the U.S. to hold talks with Trump in April. He told reporters in Tokyo on Friday morning that he had spoken with Trump on the phone, and they had agreed to continue putting maximum pressure on North Korea until it takes concrete steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea Koreas Tensions

Kim Jong-un, front right, shakes hands with South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyang Monday. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. (Korean Central News Agency/Associated Press)

Not long ago, Trump and Kim were trading barbs, with Kim once calling the U.S. president a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” 

Trump, who has called Kim “little rocket man” and a “madman” threatened at one point to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” should North Korea continue to threaten the U.S.

On Tuesday, Trump had expressed both hope and scepticism about the reported offer of talks. While the path to a diplomatic resolution over the North’s nuclear arsenal would be long and difficult, talks could dampen fears of war breaking out over what represents an emerging threat to the U.S. mainland.

House foreign affairs committee chairman Ed Royce, a Republican, said in a statement Thursday night that Kim’s openness to talks shows the “sanctions the administration has implemented are starting to work.” 

But he also had a note of caution, saying, “We can pursue more diplomacy, as we keep applying pressure ounce by ounce. Remember, North Korean regimes have repeatedly used talks and empty promises to extract concessions and buy time.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking before the Thursday night announcement, said from Ethiopia that the U.S. has seen “potentially positive signals” from North Korea, but the adversaries are still a long way from holding negotiations

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