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Overnight Defense: Trump agrees to meet North Korea's Kim | Senators worry tariffs could hurt national security | State announces arms sale to Qatar, UAE

Overnight Defense: Trump agrees to meet North Korea's Kim | Senators worry tariffs could hurt national security | State announces arms sale to Qatar, UAE
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THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE has said he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May in an effort to see Pyongyang abandon its nuclear ambitions, South Korea's national security adviser said Thursday night.

Chung Eui-yong made the announcement during a news conference outside the White House after meeting with Trump administration officials. Chung said the North Korean leader has expressed his "eagerness to meet with President Trump as soon as possible."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump "will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined."

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"We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea," she said in a statement shortly after the South Korean announcement. "In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain."

No White House officials appeared alongside Chung on Thursday night and further details about Trump's plans were not immediately clear.

Chung led a South Korean delegation earlier in the week on a historic trip to Pyongyang. During the trip, the envoys became the first South Korean officials to meet with Kim since he took power in 2011.

On Tuesday, the South Korean envoys announced that Kim told them he is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning nuclear weapons and that he would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while engaged in talks.

The Trump administration and lawmakers greeted the offer cautiously, expressing both hope that talks can happen and skepticism at Kim's sincerity.

Trump had touted the announcement Thursday night to reporters at the White House before it was delivered by the South Korean official, characterizing it as "major."

"It's almost beyond that," Trump told ABC News's Jonathan Karl when asked if the announcement was about negotiations. "Hopefully, you will give me credit."

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has the story. And check back at TheHill.com for updates.

 

EARLIER THURSDAY, SENATORS URGED TRUMP TO KEEP PRESSURE ON N. KOREA WHILE EXPLORING TALKS: Six Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees are urging President Trump to continue the so-called maximum pressure campaign against North Korea as the possibility of talks are explored.

"Mr. President, when it comes to the North Korean regime, we must verify before we trust," the senators wrote in a letter to Trump on Thursday. "While we must take any credible opportunity to talk with Pyongyang about denuclearization, we must also never forget that the DPRK continues to represent a grave threat to the United States, our allies and global peace and stability.

"We ask that you respond to Congress in a timely manner regarding the administration's strategy to engage the DPRK and your plan for a robust implementation of the maximum pressure campaign against this heinous regime."

The letter was signed by Republican Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats must end mob rule GOP senators praise Haley as 'powerful' and 'unafraid' Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die MORE (Colo.), Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGraham: 'Game changer' if Saudis behind journalist's disappearance GOP senators ask EPA to block states that have 'hijacked' rule to stop fossil fuel production Pentagon releases report on sexual assault risk MORE (Okla.), James Risch (Idaho), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Dems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism MORE (Fla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senate Homeland chair vents Mueller probe is preventing panel from receiving oversight answers MORE (Wis.), and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP GOP senators: Mnuchin should not go to Saudi Arabia Graham pledges to 'sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia' over missing journalist MORE (Ind.).

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has the rest here.

 

NOBEL PRIZE?: GOP Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) said Thursday that Trump "should be well on his way" to winning the Nobel Peace Prize if he is successful in prompting North Korea to disarm its nuclear capabilities.

"If North Korea talks lead to concrete action, President Trump should be well on his way to his own Nobel Peace Prize," Messer said in a statement. "North Korea is signaling for the first time a willingness to discuss disarming its nuclear capabilities. If this happens, it would be a direct result of President Trump's strong leadership and decisive action toward the brutal North Korean tyrant."

Read about that here.

 

GENERAL SAYS NO UNIFIED EFFORT AGAINST RUSSIAN CYBER THREAT: The head of U.S. European Command said Thursday that the U.S. government does not have an effective unified effort to confront cyber threats from Russia.

"I don't believe there's an effective unification across the interagency with the energy and the focus that we could attain," Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told lawmakers during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Scaparrotti, who is also the supreme allied commander of NATO, had been asked by the committee's top Democrat Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Five changes Democrats will seek at Pentagon if they win power The Hill's Morning Report — Historic, high-stakes day for Kavanaugh and Ford MORE (R.I.) how he would assess the country's "whole-of-government response" to confront Russia's cyber threat.

The general also said that the Pentagon is trying to map out the scope of Russian cyber activity, but so far does not have a full picture of the activity.

"We're getting better understanding of it," he said. "I would not characterize it as a - as a good picture at this point, not satisfactory to me."

Read more on the hearing here

 

GOP SENATORS SAY TRUMP TARIFFS COULD HARM NATIONAL SECURITY: President Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum could hurt U.S. national security, a group of GOP senators led by Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities Chairman Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Overnight Defense: Trump ramps up pressure on Iran, international courts | Arrest made after suspicious letters sent to Trump, Mattis | US to offer NATO cyber capabilities Admiral defends record after coming under investigation in 'Fat Leonard' scandal MORE (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter to the president.

Trump Thursday ordered tariffs on steel and aluminum imports using a legal provision that allows the imposition of import taxes on national security grounds. 

The senators' letter, which cited the White House's own National Security Strategy and Defense secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Joint Chiefs chairman to meet with Saudi counterpart Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' despite 'Democrat' remark MORE's National Defense Strategy, said the tariffs would strain alliances the US needs to maintain its national security.

"Our military and intelligence communities benefit from these alliances and partnerships, and in today's strategic environment it is of utmost importance that we continue to foster constructive relationships with international partners that share our nation's concerns and interests with emphasis on addressing the most critical challenges facing the U.S. and global steel industry," the letter said.

The Hill's Niv Elis has more here

 

MORE ON THE TARIFFS: President Trump on Thursday officially announced steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, defying his own party and delivering on a campaign promise to fight what he sees as unfair practices by U.S. trading partners.

Trump signed paperwork enacting tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum during a hastily arranged event at the White House.

The president temporarily exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariffs, arguing his administration would continue talks with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners. Trump has separately discussed withdrawing the United States from NAFTA.

White House officials said that all other countries will be able to make their case as to why they should be exempt from the tariffs and what they will do to shore up their national security relationship with the United States.

More from The Hill's Jordan Fabian and Vicki Needham here.

 

US TROOPS IN NIGER, MALI, TO RECEIVE HOSTILE FIRE PAY: U.S. troops serving in Niger and Mali will receive extra pay for being in danger of hostile fire, a congressman said.

"I am very pleased that the military was able to provide a resolution for our service members, who clearly deserve Imminent Danger Pay when operating in hostile environments in the Sahel region of Africa," Rep. Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyHouse lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Lawmakers introduce resolution to back naming NATO headquarters after McCain MORE (D-Conn.) said in a statement late Wednesday.

Later Thursday, the Pentagon released a memo confirming that troops in Niger, Mali and parts of northern Cameroon would receive the $225 per month bonus.

On Tuesday, Courtney questioned Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, on why troops serving in Niger and Mali do not receive the bonus when those serving in other African countries such as Algeria, Chad, Egypt and Kenya do.

The issue of Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) for troops serving on the ground in Niger was raised after four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush there in October.

 Read more here. 

 

STATE ANNOUNCES $467M WEAPONS SALE TO QATAR, UAE: The State Department has approved a possible $270.4 million missile sale to the United Arab Emirates and a $197 million upgrade for Qatar's air operation center, even as Gulf countries continue to impose a blockade on Doha.

The proposed sale to the UAE Air Force includes 300 Sidewinder Block II missiles and associated parts and contractor support from Raytheon, according to a Thursday announcement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which oversees foreign military sales.

"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," the DSCA notice states.

Qatar's possible sale, also announced Thursday and awarded to Raytheon, includes equipment and support to upgrade its Air Force's Air Operation Center.

The country houses Al Udeid Air Base, which holds 10,000 U.S. military personnel.

Congress must now approve both sales.

Read more here. 

 

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-- Defense News: Lockheed CEO Hewson defends the company's role with DoD: 'We are leading a national asset'

-- Reuters: State Department says offering rewards for info on Pakistani militant leaders