U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to meet Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), by May at Kim's invitation, "to achieve permanent denuclearization", a visiting South Korean envoy said here on Thursday.
Trump could be the first sitting U.S. president to meet the DPRK's top leader, which observers say would be a big step toward resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
Kim has said the DPRK "will refrain from any further nuclear or missile test," Chung Eui-yong, South Korea's top national security adviser, told reporters at the White House after briefing Trump on the outcome of a South Korean delegation's meeting with Kim earlier this week.
Kim was also committed to denuclearization of the DPRK, Chung added.
"He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue," said Chung, who arrived in Washington Thursday with South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon.
The White House has announced that routine U.S. military exercises with allies in Asia will continue. The next U.S.-South Korean drill is expected in April.
Signs of further detente on the Korean Peninsula were detected as Kim made a tension-easing gesture during the high-level South Korean delegation's two-day visit to Pyongyang. For the first time since he assumed power, Kim personally hosted a dinner for the delegation.
"He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible," Chung said.
"Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization," the envoy added.
He said Seoul and Washington are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.
Trump posted a tweet soon. "Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea (DPRK) during this period of time," the tweet said.
He added: "Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!"
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump "will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined."
"We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea (DPRK). In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain," Sanders added.
Washington has been pushing forward its "maximum pressure" campaign against Pyongyang mainly through economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Experts say the strategy may not achieve its expected results but could further escalate tensions.
U.S. lawmakers appeared to be cautiously optimistic about the dramatic easing of tension between Washington and Pyongyang. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that the United States now has "the best hope in decades to resolve this threat peacefully."
Edward Royce, a Republican Congressman and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: "We can pursue more diplomacy, as we keep applying pressure ounce by ounce."
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the United States and the DPRK to hold talks sooner rather than later. He also called for resolving the legitimate security concerns of all sides including the DPRK on an equal footing.