President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un to seek a deal on denuclearisation while stressing US sanctions will remain in place, says the White House.

South Korea's national security chief Chung Eui-yong briefs US President Donald Trump at the Oval Office about his visit to North Korea, in Washington, March 8, 2018.
South Korea's national security chief Chung Eui-yong briefs US President Donald Trump at the Oval Office about his visit to North Korea, in Washington, March 8, 2018. ( Reuters )

US President Donald Trump will not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un unless he sees some "concrete" action by Pyongyang, the White House said on Friday.

It comes after a top South Korean official said on Thursday that Trump has accepted an offer of a summit from the North Korean leader and will meet with Kim Jong-un by May.

TRT World's Joseph Hayat reports.

The South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters of the planned meeting outside the White House, after briefing Trump and other top US officials about a rare meeting with Kim in the North Korean capital on Monday.

But White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said at a news briefing that "the president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions take place by North Korea, so the president will actually be getting something." 

No serving American president has ever met with a North Korean leader. The US and North Korea do not even have formal diplomatic relations. 

The two nations remain in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.

TRT World's Harry Horton reports.

Trump decided "himself" on talks - Tillerson

Trump made the decision to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un himself, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday, but the talks will take "some weeks" to arrange.

"That is a decision the president took himself. I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision and we had a very good conversation," Tillerson told reporters during a visit to the African nation of Djibouti.

"President Trump has said for some time that he was open to talks and he would willingly meet with Kim when conditions were right," the top US diplomat said. "And I think in the president's judgment that time has arrived now."

Steps to normalise ties

Seoul had already publicised that North Korea had offered talks with the United States on denuclearisation and normalising ties, providing a 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.

"He (Kim) expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible," Chung said. "President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation."

Chung did not say where Trump would meet with Kim. The White House said Trump's meeting with Kim would take place "at a place and time to be determined."

TRT World's Frank Ucciardo has more from New York.

Trump took office vowing to stop North Korea from attaining a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US mainland. He's oscillated between threats and insults directed at Kim and more conciliatory rhetoric. His more bellicose talk and Kim's nuclear and missile tests have fuelled fears of war.

Trump, who has ramped up economic sanctions on North Korea to force it to negotiate on giving up its nukes, has threatened the pariah nation with "fire and fury" if its threats against the US and its allies continued. He has derided Kim by referring to him as "Little Rocket Man."

After Kim repeated threats against the US in a New Year's address and mentioned the "nuclear button" on his office desk, Trump responded by tweeting that he has a nuclear button, too, "but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

Japan hails summit announcement

Japan's prime minister on Friday welcomed the surprise announcement of the summit between US and North Korean leadership.

"I highly appreciate North Korea's change that it will begin talks on the premise of denuclearisation," Shinzo Abe said, adding that he planned to visit the US to meet Trump "as early as April".

Japan has been cautious about a recent Olympics-driven rapprochement on the Korean peninsula, with Abe warning on Thursday that "talks for the sake of talks are meaningless".

But he sounded a positive note on the planned Trump-Kim summit, hailing it as "the achievement of cooperation between ... Japan, the US, and South Korea to maintain great pressure."

China welcomes decision

China on Friday welcomed the historic announcement urging both US and North Korea to show "political courage" in pursuing the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

"We welcome this positive signal by the US and North Korea in having direct dialogue," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing, adding that "the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is moving in the right direction."

"We hope that all parties can demonstrate political courage and make the right political decisions." he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies