After a week of hard-nosed negotiation, diplomatic gamesmanship and no shortage of theatrics, President Donald Trump announced Friday that the historic nuclear-weapons summit he had canceled with North Korea's Kim Jong Un is back on.
Trump said after an Oval Office meeting Friday with North Korea's Kim Yong Chol that he'd be making a mistake not to go forward with the on-again, off-again nuclear summit in Singapore.
Trump first told reporters the letter from Kim was "a very nice letter. a very interesting letter" but then said he had not opened it.
The South Korean defence minister said that if the talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons are successful, they could be compared with the 1989 Malta Summit between former President George H W Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, less than a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
In the latest sign of hostility cooling down but hopes kept in check, Trump said he had unilaterally put a hold on hundreds of new sanctions against the North, without Kim's government even asking.
U.S. officials with knowledge of the letter's contents said it did not make any noteworthy threats or concessions, and was seen as a positive step, according to multiple news reports.
Trump said that, after Friday's talks, the parties are "totally over that and now we're going to deal and we're going to really start a process".
Trump says his meeting with the most senior North Korean to visit the White House in 18 years lasted longer than expected. However, his comments were the most positive from any USA official since Mr. Trump abruptly canceled the meeting last week after belligerent statements from the North. Other analysts believe the video is purely for domestic use as a motivational tool for officials to work harder to improve the wellbeing of the North Korean people.
"I look forward to the day I can take the sanctions off North Korea", Trump said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Louisville warned Trump to be dispassionate about North Korea.
Trump told reporters he hadn't read the letter yet and added with a smile, "I may be in for a big surprise, folks".
Trump views a summit as a legacy-defining opportunity to make a nuclear deal, but he has left the world guessing since canceling the meeting last week in an open letter to Kim that complained of the North's "tremendous anger and open hostility". Despite Kim's apparent eagerness for a summit with Trump, there are many doubts that he would fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his guarantee of survival. By the next day, he was signaling the event could be back on after a conciliatory response from North Korea.
North Korea made a similar gesture with its neighbor to the south in February, during the Winter Olympics.
Kim Yong Chol is the most senior North Korean visitor to the United States since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok visited Washington in 2000 to meet President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Trump, Kim Yong Chol, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the White House on Friday.