Donald Trump, Shinzo Abe to meet ahead of expected North Korea summit | News | DW | 29.05.2018
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Donald Trump, Shinzo Abe to meet ahead of expected North Korea summit

Both leaders say it is "imperative" to completely dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs. Meanwhile, Pyongyang's former spy chief was reported to be traveling to Washington for talks.

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Monday to closely cooperate in the run-up to an "expected summit" between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

During a phone conversation, Trump and Abe said they agreed on the importance of "complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs," according a White House statement.

Without giving details, the statement reported that the two leaders had also pledged to meet before the US-North Korea summit. Trump and Abe could meet on the sidelines of the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Quebec, Canada, in early June.

Read more: North Korea denuclearization: Can Pyongyang be trusted?

On, off, and on again?

Trump abruptly called off the planned June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore on Thursday, citing the "tremendous anger and open hostility" of North Korean officials earlier that week.

The president has since voiced support for the summit after South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Saturday that Kim still wanted it to take place.

Trump's newfound eagerness to show up in Singapore was evident in preparatory meetings between US and North Korean officials on Sunday near the demilitarized zone. US officials also discussed preparations with their Singaporean counterparts that same day.

Read more: Trump's North Korea gamble has backfired

Flurry of diplomacy

The senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol was reportedly on the passenger list for a flight to the United States on Wednesday. The former spy chief would be the most senior North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years.

Trump said on Twitter Kim Yong Chol was headed to New York.

Choe Kang Il, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official involved with North America issues, was also spotted at a Beijing airport, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. It did not say whether Choe would be accompanying Kim Yong Chol, who is said to have held talks with Chinese officials before his US visit.

Kim Yong Chol has played a major role in the recent thaw in North Korea's relations with the South and the United States. He joined Kim Jong Un in both his meetings the South Korean president in April and May. He also hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Pyongyang earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the North Korean leader's de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, was reported to have flown to Singapore via Beijing on Monday night.

At the same time, a "pre-advance" team was headed to Singapore to meet with North Koreans, the White House said.

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Nuclear sticking points

Pyongyang first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and has since developed ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland.

The United States and its allies in Asia, including Japan, have repeatedly demanded that North Korea, which has largely been cut off from the global economic system, renounce its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic relief.

Kim has reportedly told Moon the North is committed to a "complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," but experts are skeptical that the US would agree to remove its nuclear weapons from South Korea as part of any final deal.

Previous negotiations between North Korea and the United States failed after Pyongyang demanded that the US withdraw its soldiers from South Korea and rescind its pledge to defend the South and Japan with its own nuclear weapons.

amp/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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