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Trade, North Korea on agenda for Abe-Trump White House meeting on April 26

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet US President Donald Trump at the White House on April 26 to discuss trade and efforts to contain North Korea's nuclear program, a US official said on Wednesday.

[WASHINGTON] Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet US President Donald Trump at the White House on April 26 to discuss trade and efforts to contain North Korea's nuclear program, a US official said on Wednesday.

Mr Abe is one of Mr Trump's closest allies on the world stage and the US president is planning to visit Tokyo in late May. Japan was the first stop on Mr Trump's November 2017 Asia tour and the two leaders played golf. A similar golf outing could be in the offing for Mr Abe's visit to Washington.

In Tokyo, Mr Trump plans to greet Crown Prince Naruhito, who will become emperor on May 1, a day after the abdication of his father, Emperor Akihito.

That visit could include a Trump-Abe visit to a sumo championship.

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The White House declined to comment.

Japan's foreign and defense ministers will meet with their US counterparts in Washington on Friday, the US State Department said.

Mr Trump has touted his good relationship with Mr Abe, which has seen closer security ties given shared concerns about China's growing power, but he has also made clear he is unhappy with Japan's trade surplus with the United States, which was US$67.6 billion in goods in 2018, according to US figures.

This week, US and Japanese officials held a first round of talks toward a new trade deal Mr Trump has sought and the US side raised concerns over the "very large" trade deficit with Tokyo.

Mr Trump and Mr Abe agreed last September to start trade talks in an arrangement that protects Japanese automakers from further tariffs while negotiations are under way.

Friday's security talks will cover North Korea and the "continued realignment of US armed forces in Japan", among other issues, the State Department said.

The discussions are also likely to cover investigations into the crash in the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan last week of the first US-designed F-35 fighter aircraft assembled in Japan.

The advanced Lockheed Martin jet crashed in good weather about 84 miles (135 km) east of the Misawa air base in Japan's Aomori prefecture on April 9.

Japan's first F-35 squadron had just become operational at Misawa, and Tokyo plans to buy 87 of the fighters to modernise its air defenses as neighbouring China and Russia upgrade their military forces.

Discussions on North Korea are likely to cover next steps after Mr Trump's failed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February.

REUTERS