0511 GMT December 16, 2018
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who some believe has maneuvered the two leaders to this position, reflected the hope and relief many feel about the planned summit when he declared Friday that it will be a "historical milestone" that will put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula "really on track", AP reported.
Earlier Thursday, South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong had briefed Trump and other top US officials about a rare meeting with Kim in the North Korean capital.
Trump then made a surprise visit to the White House press briefing room to alert reporters of an upcoming "major statement" on North Korea by South Korea.
At a quickly called appearance on a White House driveway, Chung told reporters that Kim had "expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible" and that "President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization."
"Great progress being made," Trump tweeted after the announcement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Djibouti on Friday that the decision to meet with Kim was made by Trump himself and resulted from a sharp change in the North Korean leader's stance.
"What changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way. It was a surprise to us that he was so forward-leaning," Tillerson said. He said it would take "some weeks" before the timing of the talks is worked out.
North Korea appeared to confirm the summit plans. A senior North Korean diplomat at the United Nations in New York, Pak Song-il, told The Washington Post in an email that the invitation was the result of Kim's "broad minded and resolute decision" to contribute to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have previously been overseen by lower-level experts, and have often bogged down, even when so-called "breakthroughs" have come, in the pesky details, such as allowing outsiders in to inspect North Korea's nuclear compliance, for instance.
Now, the talks will start at the top. And there will be no time to settle all the problems that have scuttled previous negotiations.
The announcement Friday followed weeks of softening ties between the Koreas, orchestrated by the South Korean leader, Moon, and culminating in a visit by Kim’s sister to the South to observe the Olympics in Pyeongchang and then Chung's trip to meet with Kim in Pyongyang.
Chung, who credited Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign for the diplomatic opening on the nuclear issue, said Kim understands that routine US-South Korea military drills "must continue."
Kim, who had used his annual New Year's address to warn the United States of a supposed nuclear button on his desk, has an economy that's been battered by heavy international sanctions. Trump said the sanctions against the North will remain in place until there's a deal.