Trump ‘in great mood’ about Kim
DONALD Trump is in a "great mood" ahead of his historic encounter with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, according to the White House.
But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the United States would make "zero concessions" and the talks would not take place until the rogue state matched words with "concrete and verifiable actions" to denuclearise.
Mr Trump has said North Korea must refrain from missile testing during this period, but Ms Sanders appeared to indicate some promises were required from the repressive regime.
However, North Korea has not committed to denuclearisation, only wanting to open the way to talks. It has raised fresh concerns that neither party will be ready to compromises.
The President's unprecedented decision to meet the regime leader over the nuclear stand-off has the potential to end in fireworks, with commentators warning he could be walking into a trap.
Mr Trump reportedly accepted the invitation almost on the spot, making a unilateral decision and up-ending decades of US foreign policy.
The remarkable meeting will see the two eccentric, headstrong leaders meet as soon as May.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was "a decision the President took himself", just like his radical announcement on tariffs. The news comes amid further embarrassment for the businessman after a the identity of the porn star who accused him of sexual harassment was revealed.
While details are still being hammered out, the pair - who only recently were exchanging insults and threats to destroy each other - are set to discuss the rogue nation's controversial nuclear program in a landmark encounter that will be watched by the entire world.
ULTIMATE REALITY TV MOMENT
Mr Trump will become the first sitting president to meet with North Korea's leader, a radical step his predecessors would hardly have considered, although senior politicians have visited in unsuccessful attempts to broker peace.
But the former reality star is known for ripping up the rule book, and this could prove to be the most heart-stopping television scene of the decade.
Mr Tillerson said he had spoken with the wilful Mr Trump early on Friday morning. "This is something he's had on his mind for some time," said the secretary of state.
And indeed, the drastic step was foreshadowed. A North Korean propaganda movie predicted the scenario several years ago, and while the President previously insisted that talks were not the way to go, he has lately indicated that he would be open to meeting with Mr Kim.
The real estate mogul has long insisted he can do a better job in solving the North Korea nuclear problem than any president who has gone before him.
"Nobody knows the system better than me," Mr Trump thundered at the Republican convention. "I alone can fix it."
His obstinate belief in his abilities has now led to the twist that has some advisers feeling extremely nervous.
'LAST PLACE ON EARTH I WANT TO GO'
The President called North Korea the "last place on Earth I want to go to" in a May 2014 tweet, and there would be major security risks in such a visit. Mr Kim rarely travels, but did study in neutral Switzerland, which has been mooted as a possible location for the summit, along with China and even New York.
Mr Trump will sit down with the leader he has labelled a "maniac", a "bad dude" and most memorably, "Rocket Man". In turn, Mr Kim has called the US President a "mentally deranged dotard" who he would "tame with fire".
Their trading of jibes and claims to have giant nuclear buttons on their desks paint a picture of two men who are, in fact, similar in many ways.
"I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un," Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal in January.
South Korea played a vital role in orchestrating the meeting, with national security adviser Chung Eui-yong visiting the White House this week bearing messages from North Korea after a delegation from the south went to Pyongyang.
On February 25, a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in noted that "North Korea-United States dialogue must take place soon in order to improve South-North Korean relations and to find a fundamental solution to the Korean Peninsula issue."
Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2017
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Mr Trump responded in remarks to US governors at the White House the day after: "We want to talk also … [but] only under the right conditions."
On Tuesday, South Korean envoys who had met with Mr Kim said North Korea, which has been pushing for the talks, was ready to give up its nuclear weapons. "The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearise," they said in a statement. "It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed."
Speaking outside the White House, Mr Chung confirmed Mr Kim had committed to stopping his nuclear and missile tests. "Today I had the honour to invite Donald Trump and his national security team to Pyongyang," he said.
"He (Kim) expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.
"President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation."
Mr Trump tweeted a confirmation, hailing the step as "great progress" while asserting that sanctions will remain in place until an agreement is reached.
He said North Korea would also refrain from missile testing during this period.
Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
'TRUMP HAS MADE HIS REPUTATION ON MAKING DEALS'
The President reportedly spoke with just a handful of politicians before making his decision to accept the invitation. The encounter comes with a high level of risk as well as potential reward.
While plenty are cautious, this is a major opportunity for a stunning diplomatic victory on the nuclear standoff, as well as a massive gamble.
Dr Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told news.com.au that Mr Trump going to North Korea instead of a neutral location would be a win for Mr Kim, indicating the President accepted him as leader of a nuclear North Korea. Dr Davis said the Mr Kim would seek wide-ranging concessions and had no intention of denuclearising and losing the regime's security. "We've been down this path a few times before," he said.
A senior White House official said Mr Trump had accepted Mr Kim's invitation to meet because "it makes sense to accept an invitation to meet with the one person who can actually make decisions," even though it bypasses traditional negotiation processes.
"President Trump was elected in part because he is willing to do - take approaches very, very different from past approaches and past presidents. That couldn't be better exemplified in his North Korea policy," the official said Thursday evening.
"President Trump has made his reputation on making deals and Kim is the one person who is able to make decisions under their authoritarian - or totalitarian - system."
Mr Moon described the announcement as "historic", thanking both leaders for seeking a diplomatic solution to the Korean Peninsula's problems.
"This is an almost miraculous event; my administration will prepare toward the May meeting with utmost diligence," he said in a statement read out by a spokesman.
Other world leaders reacted with caution to the news. Julie Bishop said Australia welcomed "any dialogue with North Korea" but warned that the rogue state "has a history of making agreements and then failing to honour them."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke to the President on the phone to reiterate the necessity of maintaining "maximum pressure" on North Korea until it takes "concrete actions toward denuclearisation."
The train was set in motion from the moment a North Korean delegation was invited to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. This groundbreaking diplomatic moment was followed by South Korean delegation visiting Pyongyang.
There, Mr Kim reportedly served meals of Korean hotpot and cold noodles, washed down with ginseng wine and local spirit soju.
The North Korean leader joked over numerous bottles that his missile tests had caused a nervous Mr Moon to schedule early morning national security meetings.
"I decided today (to freeze the tests) so he will not lose sleep anymore," he said, according a South Korean official.
While Mr Trump may respect that sort of humour, he is teetotal and known for a diet primarily of burgers and fries - so Mr Kim may have to rethink his hospitality.