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Abe, Trump agree N. Korea warrants pressure, not dialogue

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald
Trump affirmed Friday in Italy that pressure, not dialogue, is needed
now in tackling the threat from North Korea.

The leaders agreed in their talks in Taormina just ahead of the
Group of Seven industrialized nations' summit, to work with all
countries in persuading North Korea to denuclearize, and that China,
Pyongyang's primary diplomatic and economic benefactor, has an
important role to play.

The agreement to prioritize pressure over dialogue was reached
despite Trump saying earlier this month that he would be "honored" to
meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "under the right circumstances."

Abe has stressed that direct dialogue with North Korea should
not be resumed while Pyongyang continues provocative actions
including testing ballistic missiles, the latest just last Sunday.

Trump told Abe that the issues presented by North Korea, which
continues to develop nuclear weapons as well, are "a world problem
and it will be solved at some point."

"It will be solved, you can bet on that," Trump said at the
outset of the talks, the portion open to the press.

In their second face-to-face talks since Trump took office in
January, Abe and Trump shared an awareness that the threat posed by
North Korea is increasing, according to a Japanese official who sat
in on the talks.

Scheduled to last 30 minutes, the meeting stretched to nearly an
hour, concluding just minutes before the start of the G-7 welcoming
ceremony. More than half of that time was spent discussing North
Korea, the official said.

Abe and Trump confirmed that they will pursue further sanctions
against North Korea and action in the U.N. Security Council, in
cooperation with South Korea.

According to the White House, that work will include
"identifying and sanctioning entities that support North Korea's
ballistic missile and nuclear programs."

Japan has also imposed unilateral sanctions including
blacklisting Chinese firms deemed to have assisted North Korea's
missile or nuclear weapons development programs.

Abe and Trump also agreed to further strengthen the alliance
between the United States and Japan, "to further each country's
capability to deter and defend against threats from North Korea," the
White House press office said.

The Japanese briefer said Abe told Trump that the U.S. deterrent
capability is important for stability in Southeast Asia as well,
referring to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

That choice of phrase was a veiled reference to China, which has
made sweeping territorial claims to much of the South China Sea, as
well as uninhabited islets administered by Japan in the East China

Abe hailed Trump's plan to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation summit and East Asia Summit in Southeast Asia this
November, the official said.

Abe also told Trump that dialogue with Russia is important in
tackling issues including North Korea and Syria, and the U.S. leader
agreed, the official said.

The leaders affirmed their resolve to work together in facing
the threat from terrorism in the wake of a deadly suicide bombing in
the British city of Manchester on Monday.

While Abe and "America First" proponent Trump found common
ground on security, they eschewed mention of aspects of trade policy
on which they still clash.

They affirmed the importance of free and fair trade, but did not
discuss trade between the two countries, the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade deal from which Trump pulled the United States out
in January, or the bilateral economic dialogue Tokyo and Washington
set up in the wake of its TPP withdrawal, the Japanese official said.

At the start of that dialogue last month, U.S. Vice President
Mike Pence hinted the framework could one day lead to formal
negotiations toward a bilateral trade deal.

While Trump has vowed to pursue bilateral as opposed to
multilateral trade deals, Abe appears wary of a Japan-U.S. pact, in
which Washington could drive a harder bargain than it did in the TPP
negotiations. (May 26)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and U.S.
President Donald Trump hold talks ahead of
the Group of Seven industrialized nations' summit in
Taormina, Italy, on May 26, 2017.
(Photo: White House)