Trump said on Thursday (March 8) he was prepared to meet Kim in what would be the first face-to-face encounter between any leaders of the two countries. It potentially marks a major breakthrough in easing tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The decision was made by the president himself, Tillerson said during a visit to Djibouti.
Trump has derided Kim as a “maniac”, referred to him as “little rocket man”, and threatened in a speech to the United Nations last year to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked the United States or one of its allies. Kim responded by calling the U.S. president a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard”.
Trump’s aides have been wary of North Korea’s diplomatic overtures because of its history of reneging on international commitments and the failure of efforts on disarmament by previous U.S. administrations. Some U.S. officials and experts worry North Korea could buy time to build up and refine its nuclear arsenal if it drags out talks with Washington.
Tillerson said the United States was surprised at how “forward-leaning” Kim was in his conversations with a visiting South Korean delegation. He said it was the strongest indication to date of Kim’s “not just willingness but really his desire for talks”.