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U.S. officials don’t have direct confirmation yet that North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un
will meet with President
in May, Secretary of State
said Monday, although the White House said the meeting would be held as planned.
Mr. Tillerson said the officials from the two countries have to enter direct consultations ahead of the expected meeting between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong Un.
“We’ve not heard anything directly back from North Korea, although we expect to hear something directly from them,” he said, adding that the sides haven’t decided on a location for the meeting.
“Nothing’s been agreed and I don’t want to start floating ideas out through the media. I think it’s going to be very important that those kind of conversations are held quietly through the two parties,” Mr. Tillerson said, speaking to reporters while in Nigeria at the end of a five-country trip through Africa,
The White House said Monday that it expects the meeting to take place. White House press secretary
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
said the U.S. has accepted the invitation via South Korea and “we’re going to move forward in this process.”
Ms. Sanders said an international sanctions campaign aimed at pressuring North Korea to back away from its program will continue, and the invitation stems directly from that campaign.
“That shows the effectiveness of the maximum pressure campaign,” she said.
The U.S. chief diplomat’s swing through Africa came as Mr. Trump made a decision on short notice last week to hold a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Kim, leaving Mr. Tillerson and many other Trump aides in the dark.
Mr. Tillerson was also ill for one day on the Africa trip, scrapping some planned activities in Kenya, and cut the trip a day short on Monday so that he could return to Washington by Tuesday “due to pressing demands in the U.S.,” said Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Mr. Tillerson visited Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria, leaving Monday evening to return to the U.S.
—Matina Stevis-Gridneff in Nairobi and Michael C. Bender in Washington contributed to this article
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com