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The president of the United States, Donald Trump, accepted the invitation of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to meet in person.
The announcement was made by the head of the South Korean Office of National Security, Chung Eiu-yong, on Thursday night, in an appearance before the press outside the White House in Washington, after meeting with Trump himself.
Should the meeting materialize, it would be the first time that the US leaders and North Korea meet.
Chung was part of the South Korean delegation that visited Pyongyang earlier this week.
A letter for Trump
The South Korean official explained that during that visit the leader of North Korea gave him a letter in which he expressed his desire to meet with Trump and to discuss the nuclear program of his country.
“I told President Trump that in our meeting, the North Korean leader said he is committed to denuclearization,” Chung said.
“Kim promised that North Korea will refrain from further nuclear or missile tests ,” the South Korean added.
Chung also assured that Trump received the letter and accepted the invitation of Kim Jong-un, with whom he wants to meet in May.
“President Trump appreciated the report and said he would meet with Kim Jong-un in May to achieve permanent denuclearization,” he said.
The South Korean government said the meeting between Kim and Trump is scheduled to be held in late May.
The press secretary of the White House, Sara Sanders, confirmed in a statement that the US president agreed to meet with his North Korean counterpart.
“He will accept the invitation to meet Kim Jong-un at a place and date yet to be determined.” We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea, while all sanctions and maximum pressure must continue, “Sanders said.
Laura Bicker, correspondent of the BBC in Seoul, points out that it is important to note that North Korea has not yet said that it will abandon its nuclear weapons, only that it is “committed” to do so.
According to Bicker, this news is a propaganda victory for Kim Jong-un, although Trump must also be satisfied, since his aggressive policy towards North Korea seems to have worked.
Our correspondent points out that it is not clear what Pyongyang is asking in exchange for talks with the US. and South Korea.
A year of tensions
The news of the possible meeting between the two leaders is known after a year of strong tensions between North Korea and the US, in which the leaders of both countries have exchanged threats and personal insults and in which Pyongyang has shown its capacity armamentística, among others, with the launching of several long-range missiles.
Earlier this week, shortly after South Korea announced that its northern neighbor was willing to negotiate its denuclearization provided the stability of the regime is guaranteed, the US president claimed victory for that change of position.
“The sanctions have been very, very strong, they have had a lot of impact,” said Trump, who highlighted China’s “great help” to contain his neighbor and his hope that North Korea is being sincere.
The truth is that, given the opacity of the North Korean regime, the experts do not agree on a single reason that explains the sudden readiness of Kim Jong-un to negotiate.
Sanctions and trials
One of the factors that may have prompted Pyongyang to return to dialogue is the multiple and harsh international sanctions that weigh on the country and have increased in recent months, according to some observers.
“The sanctions are exerting real pressure on the regime,” Abraham Denmark, who worked in the past for the Pentagon in Asian affairs and now directs the Asian program of the Wilson Center, told BBC World a few days ago.
Denmark, however, considered that there is another crucial factor: the successes achieved by Pyongyang in 2017 .
“North Korea has made tremendous progress in its nuclear and missile program,” Denmark said, referring to North Korea’s successful missile and nuclear tests last year.
His sixth nuclear test, the launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles supposedly capable of reaching the entire US territory and the development of solid fuel missiles are an example of this.
North Korea has been isolated from the international scene for decades for its documented record of human rights abuses and nuclear aspirations, contrary to international law.
But on the other hand, technical advances have opened a window for Pyongyang, in the opinion of some analysts, because they allow the regime to negotiate on equal terms, confident that their weapons will be a deterrent for Washington.
A new South Korean leader
The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, who agreed to the position in 2017, is another of the key figures in this new political scenario, according to analysts who are consulted by BBC Mundo.
Already in campaign, Moon pleaded for a greater approach with the North and, in spite of some critics within his country, is fulfilling the promises.
The thaw between the two Koreas was materialized during the Winter Olympic Games held in South Korea, the so-called “Peace Games”, and these contacts led to the recent agreement between the two countries to hold a summit of leaders in March and détente with Washington.
“It has achieved what it promised, but if it will lead to permanent denuclearization (of the peninsula) it is still a question,” Lisa Collins, specialist in Korean affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told BBC.
Collins admitted having a pessimistic view of the real motives of North Korea and did not rule out that Pyongyang’s offer is just a strategy to achieve an “economic respite” and even undermine the US alliance. and South Korea.