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Jeremy B. White, Alexandra Wilts — The Independent March 9, 2018

Donald Trump has accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s invitation to meet, an extraordinary turn of events that followed months of rising tensions between the two nations.

South Korea’s National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong told reporters at the White House that North Korea expressed a willingness to refrain from testing missiles and nuclear weapons and said Mr Trump pledged to meet by May in an effort to achieve “permanent denuclearisation”.

Mr Trump confirmed that he would accept Mr Kim’s invitation but said that sanctions would stay intact.

“Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearisation with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” Mr Trump tweeted following Mr Chung’s announcement. “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!”

No sitting US president has ever met with a North Korean leader. Mr Trump said last May that he would be willing to meet with Mr Kim “under the right circumstances”. But that remark was followed by months of heightened tensions and flame-throwing between the two leaders.

Now, after maximum pressure on Mr Kim’s regime, a senior administration official said, North Korea now appears ready for some kind of dialogue. But Mr Trump has “been very clear from the beginning” that he will not reward North Korea for talks, the official added, and will only accept the permanent denuclearisation of North Korea.  

“We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea”, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain”.

Mr Chung said North Korea did not demand a precondition long cited by Pyongyang: a cessation of joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, which it regularly denounces as provocations and rehearsals for an invasion.

“He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue”, Mr Chung said.

Mr Kim’s offer presents an opportunity for a breakthrough at a time when military officials have warned that North Korea’s increasing military sophistication – and its progress toward becoming a nuclear-armed state – pose an urgent threat.

Mounting belligerence from Pyongyang has loomed over Mr Trump’s first year in office, testing the limits of international diplomacy and raising the spectre of nuclear conflict. North Korea has tested multiple ballistic missiles and threatened to annihilate its neighbours; Mr Trump and his surrogates have responded by saying they’re prepared to launch an overwhelming military response.

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