NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — President Donald Trump is poised to become the first sitting president to meet with North Korea, in what many see as a high stakes summit in hopes of achieving permanent denuclearization.
“The president wants to make sure that we denuclearize the peninsula and that we’re securing and helping have a safer world,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during Friday’s briefing.
“The North Koreans did promise something. They promised to denuclearize. They promised to stop nuclear and missile testing, and they’ve recognized that we’re going to continue in our military exercises,” Sanders added.
Many political experts say the agreement of a historic meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes with a lot of risk if negotiations fail. The invitation came by way of South Korean officials, who secured the offer Kim Jong Un this week.
“[Kim Jong Un] expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” said Chung Eui-Yong, South Korea’s national security adviser.
Trump appreciated the meeting and said they would meet by May to achieve denuclearization.
Trump confirmed the summit on Twitter, writing ”Kim Jong Un talked about de-nuclearization 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!”
The move marks a major shift in tone between the two leaders, who have traded insults and threats of war.
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Trump said “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”
Kim Jong Un called Trump a “dotard” and “mentally deranged.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said he is not convinced the North Korean leader will negotiate his nuclear weapons, but sees the meeting as a potential opening for a diplomatic solution.
“This was the most forward thinking report we’ve had from Kim Jong Un, not just willingness but strong desire for talks,” Tillerson said.
Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns watched as North Korea reneged on deals with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and says he’s skeptical about Kim Jong Un’s motives for the proposed meeting.
“He wants legitimacy, sanctions relief. I think maybe he’ll be open to negotiating transparency about weapons. I don’t think he’ll give them up so for our president this is going to be about as difficult as it gets, and a major gamble,” Burns said.
If Trump and Kim Jong Un fail in their summit efforts there’s really nowhere else to go. That could drive us back to thinking about a military option to stop a nuclear weapon that would have the potential to hit the U.S.
In addition to maintaining sanctions against North Korea, Trump says joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea will continue.
No time or place has been set for the meeting. The White House says it will happen sometime within the next few months.