S. Korea says Trump will meet N.Korea's Kim by May

WASHINGTON (AP) — 8:25 p.m.

President 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-ever meeting between the two countries' leaders.

Trump is on Twitter after South Koreans broke the news that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wanted to meet with him. Trump says Kim "talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze."

He also says North Korea has agreed to stop testing missiles. The messages were conveyed by a South Korean delegation that visited the White House Thursday.

Trump adds, "Meeting being planned!"

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8:15 p.m.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh AH'-bay) says he plans to visit the U.S. to hold talks with President Donald 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.

Abe says there is no change in that position.

His remarks came after Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by May to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program.

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7:45 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be held "at a place and time to be determined."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement after a South Korean official broke the stunning news. Sanders says Trump "will accept the invitation to meet with" Kim.

She also says Trump "greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation" and President Moon Jae-in

She adds that the U.S. looks "forward to the denuclearization of North Korea," but says all sanctions will remain in place in the meantime.

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7:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump's hastily reached decision to accept Kim Jong Un's invitation for a meeting sent White House staff scrambling to prepare a public announcement.

Trump appeared in the White House briefing room shortly after 5 p.m. to tease the news, saying the South Korean government would make a "statement" two hours later.

Trump had wanted the statement to come from the White House press room, but aides moved it outside the West Wing, enabling a foreign official to break the historic news.

White House aides say they were unable to immediately provide additional information because they were not involved in the decision, which was entirely Trump's.

The South Korean national security adviser made the roughly 2-minute announcement after nightfall near the entrance to the West Wing.

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7:10 p.m.

South Korea's national security director says President Donald Trump has decided he will meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un "by May."

Chung Eui-yong spoke outside the White House after a day of briefings with senior U.S. officials, including Trump, on the recent inter-Korea talks. Chung says Trump said "he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula.

Chung says Kim told the South Koreans he is "committed to denuclearization" and pledged that "North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests."

The meeting would be the first of its kind between a leader of North Korea and a sitting president of the United States. The two countries have been in a formal state of war since the Korean War in the 1950s.

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President Donald Trump said South Korea will be making a “major statement” about North Korea on Thursday evening.

After his teasing announcement to reporters, Trump was asked whether the announcement would be about talks with North Korea and he told ABC reporter Jon Karl: “It’s almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit.”

Trump spoke after South Korean officials briefed the White House on the outcome of their pathfinding meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Seoul has already 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.

Top Trump administration officials got a chance to hear firsthand from South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, who led the delegation that went to Pyongyang and met Kim on Monday.

Chung told reporters on Tuesday that he received a message from North Korea intended for the United States, but didn’t disclose what it was. According to Chung, the North also agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests during such future talks — a longstanding U.S. demand.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the South Korean statement, flagged by Trump in his surprise appearance in the press briefing room, would be made by Chung. Trump said it was planned for 7 p.m. ( 2400GMT).

On Tuesday, Trump had expressed both hope and skepticism about the reported offer of talks, which has yet to be confirmed, at least publicly, by the isolated North Korean government. 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.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday in 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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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.