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White House: North Korea must take 'steps' before Trump-Kim meeting

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that the U.S. will require North Korea to take “concrete and verifiable steps” before President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE attends an announced meeting with Kim Jong Un.

The White House had not previously said that there would be any preconditions for the talks when it announced late Thursday that the president would be open to meeting with the North Korean leader in the next few months.

“This meeting won't take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea,” Sanders said.

Sanders did not specify what promises must be kept or what steps North Korea must take for the planned meeting to go through.

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South Korean officials have said that Kim will suspend his ballistic missile and nuclear tests in the hopes of opening a dialogue. Sanders said Friday that they expect North Korea’s actions and rhetoric to be aligned if the president is to sit down with Kim.

Reporters pressed Sanders on whether it was possible that the meeting might fall through.

“A lot of things are possible,” Sanders said. “I'm not going to walk through every hypothetical that could exist in the world. But I can tell you that the president has accepted that invitation on the basis that we have concrete and verifiable steps.”

South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong announced from the White House on Thursday that Trump had agreed to meet with Kim by May of this year in an effort to pressure the North Korean leader to abandon his nuclear ambitions.

The White House on Friday declined to provide more details on a time or place for the meeting.

The president insisted that sanctions would remain in place on North Korea until there is “permanent denuclearization,” and the White House says that planned military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea will continue as planned.

Still, administration officials emphasized that the planned meeting falls short of official negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

It’s unclear whether the White House expects North Korea to begin the denuclearization process before or after the meeting takes place.

“Let's not forget that the North Koreans did promise something — they promised to denuclearize, they have promised to stop nuclear and missile testing,” Sanders said.

“And they have recognized that we're going to continue in our military exercises. Let's be very clear. The United States has made zero concessions, but North Korea has made some promises. And again, this meeting won't take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea.”

The White House took credit for Kim’s willingness to negotiate, saying it was the result of its “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea.

“For the first time in a long time, the United States is actually having conversations from a position of strength, not a position of weakness like the one that North Korea finds itself in,” Sanders said.

“The president is getting exactly what he wants,” she added.