‘ALMOST a miracle’ US refuses to stop ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea as talks hailed

he talks have been arranged by South Korean diplomats who verbally conveyed Pyongyang’s invitation to Mr Trump at the White House where officials confirmed the US President was ready to meet Kim “by May”, at a time and location yet to be determined.

Many Korea observers are hailing President Moon as the hero behind the breakthrough and his popularity ratings, which fell when he welcomed North Koreans to last month’s Winter Olympics, soared after the announcement.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Mr Moon was “winner of the week”.

He said: “Moon Jae-in has been orchestrating this whole thing with very little from either the North Korea or the US.”

Kevin Gray, a specialist in inter-Korean relations at the University of Sussex in Brighton described President Moon as a “master of diplomacy”.

Mr Moon is reported to have described the agreement to hold talks as “almost a miracle”.

He said: “If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest.”

Washington is portraying the invitation as a victory for Mr Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure”.

But the White House stressed the US would not relax its stringent sanctions regime before North Korea began disarming.

A senior official said Mr Trump “is not prepared to reward North Korea in exchange for talks”.

If the meeting takes place it would be the first ever between leaders of the two countries.

Pyongyang has long sought a summit with the US to reflect what the regime sees as its status as a regional military power.

After a series of talks between the Koreas during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kim Jong-un joked his counterpart in Seoul will no longer have to wake up early in the morning to discuss missile launches with his national security council, according to South Korean officials.

He made the remark during a meeting with special envoys earlier this week saying he had decided to suspend missile launches.

Kim was also quoted as saying that whenever there is a problem, he can now resolve it through a direct phone call with Mr Moon.

The North Korean leader has agreed to open a hotline with Mr Moon, and hold a third inter-Korean summit in late April.