May 29, 2018 / 3:27 AM / in 6 months

White House says Trump and Abe agree to meet before expected U.S.-North Korea summit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed North Korea by phone on Monday and confirmed they would meet before an expected U.S.-North Korea summit, the White House said.

A White House statement said that in their call, Trump and Abe “affirmed the shared imperative of achieving the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs.”

Earlier, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted Abe as saying that the two leaders had agreed to cooperate to make the summit between the U.S. president and North Korean leader meaningful.

Trump last week pulled out of the summit with Kim, planned for June 12 in Singapore, before announcing he had reconsidered and that U.S. and North Korean officials were meeting to work out details.

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department said U.S. and North Korean officials had met at Panmunjom, a village in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that runs along the heavily armed border between North and South Korea.

A “pre-advance” team of U.S. officials has also traveled to Singapore to meet with North Koreans there, the White House said.

While both Trump and Kim have appeared eager to hold the summit, the two sides have remained far apart on the key issue of denuclearization, with North Korea rejecting U.S. demands for it to unilaterally abandon a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States.

The White House gave no details as to when the Trump-Abe meeting might take place, but both leaders are due to attend the G7 meeting of big industrial powers that runs from June 8 to

9 in Canada. Japanese media have also quoted government officials as saying Abe could visit Washington for talks with Trump before the G7 meeting.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Peter Cooney

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