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Japan PM hails North Korea talks on basis of denuclearisation

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"I highly appreciate North Korea's change that it will begin talks on the premise of denuclearisation," Shinzo Abe said, adding that he planned to visit the United States to meet Mr Trump "as early as April".

[TOKYO] Japan's prime minister on Friday welcomed the surprise announcement of a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un by the end of May.

"I highly appreciate North Korea's change that it will begin talks on the premise of denuclearisation," Shinzo Abe said, adding that he planned to visit the United States to meet Mr Trump "as early as April".

Japan has been cautious about a recent Olympics-driven rapprochement on the Korean peninsula, with Mr Abe warning on Thursday that "talks for the sake of talks are meaningless".

But he sounded a positive note on the planned Trump-Kim summit, hailing it as "the achievement of cooperation between... Japan, the US, and South Korea to maintain great pressure".

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"There is no change in policy for Japan and the United States," he added.

"We will keep putting maximum pressure (on North Korea) until North Korea takes concrete actions toward denuclearisation in a manner that is complete, verifiable and irreversible."

Mr Abe said he had spoken to Mr Trump this morning and "agreed that I'd like to visit the US and have a summit with him as early as April".

Japan, a close US ally in the region, is in the direct firing line of North Korean missiles and saw two fly over its territory in 2017, sparking outrage and lifting tensions to fever pitch.

South Korean envoys are expected to visit Japan next week to brief Mr Abe on the latest developments in the fast-moving apparent detente.

Mr Trump and Kim are expected to meet by the end of May, though there has been no confirmation of an exact date or location for the shock summit.

Mr Trump himself confirmed the plans in a tweet hailing "great progress" in the push to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme.

"Meeting being planned!" he tweeted.

AFP

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