Confusion reigned over plans for Donald Trump to meet Kim Jong-un.
The US President tweeted that a deal with North Korea is “very much in the making”, but earlier, the White House said the meeting would not take place unless Pyongyang took “concrete actions”.
US media report that Mr Trump made the decision to meet without consulting key figures in his administration, who are now scrambling to catch up.
Trump’s own press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters that North Korea has “promised to denuclearise”, adding: “We’re not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions.”
The top US diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on his first official trip to Africa, told reporters the decision to meet Kim was one “the president took himself”.
South Korean envoys said North Korea is “committed to denuclearisation” as an end goal, but they have not said this would start before a meeting with the US. Instead, North Korea is understood to have agreed to halt its testing programme as negotiations continue.
US Vice-President Mike Pence pledged to maintain pressure on North Korea, and Trump spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Friday to agree to maintain sanctions for the time being.
Chinese state media said the meeting resulted from Chinese efforts, with the Communist Party’s newspaper the People’s Daily saying the US “profusely thanked and put high importance on China’s important role”.
The Korean border’s demilitarised zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as possible venues.
Kim unexpectedly used his New Year’s message to reciprocate a offer of talks made by the South last year. This led to North Korea sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South.
Speaking outside the White House, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said Kim was prepared to sit down with the US president and was now “committed to denuclearisation”.
But there is widespread concern in the South that Trump could “fall into the North Korean trap” of granting concessions with nothing tangible in return, according to BBC sources.