North Korea has told the United States for the first time that it is prepared to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korea peninsula, paving the way for an historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, according to US officials.

The announcement illustrates the breakneck pace of progress since Mr Trump stunned the world by saying he was accepting an invitation to meet the leader of the hermit kingdom.

And North Korea’s sudden outreach this year stands in contrast to 2017, when a surge in nuclear weapons and missile tests provoked angry verbal exchanges between Mr Trump and Mr Kim and the rising spectre of armed conflict.

American and North Korean officials have met secretly in recent days allowing Pyongyang’s emissaries to tell their counterparts they were willing to meet pre-conditions for the summit, a US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Until now, such messages had only been received second-hand, via South Korean counterparts.

His published remarks suggest that he was preparing the ground for talks about his nuclear weapons programme.

North Korean missile ranges

“The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace,” he said, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

His comments reflected previous suggestions that progress towards denuclearisation would proceed in step with concessions from the US.

How the last attempt at peace talks with North Korea made the situation worse

South Korean officials say they have been told that Pyongyang believed it would not need to keep its nuclear weapons if military threats against the country were resolved and it received a credible security guarantee.

North and South Korea have already agreed to hold their first joint summit in over a decade in late April.

They held talks at the weekend to discuss setting up a telephone hotline between their leaders to defuse tensions and reduce the risk of a misunderstanding leading to military hostilities.

Discussion of denuclearisation come as China announces it will ban the export to North Korea of some items with potential dual use in weapons of mass destruction, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website.

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