Five days before meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, US President Donald Trump said Thursday the unprecedented summit was “all ready to go,” as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House.
Trump and Abe were to hold a joint press conference at the White House at about 2:00 pm (1800 GMT), before heading to Canada for what promises to be a tense Group of Seven summit clouded by the US leader’s aggressive trade policies.
But before tackling the thorny trade issue, Trump expressed unbridled optimism about his June 12 tete-a-tete with Kim in Singapore.
“The summit is all ready to go,” Trump said, with Abe at his side. “It’s going to be much more than a photo op.”
Since the first inkling that a Trump-Kim summit could be on the cards, Japan has repeatedly insisted that Washington be mindful not to let its guard down with the nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang.
And by coming to Washington to see Trump for the second time in less than two months, Abe wants to be sure to get his point across to the US president, amid the intense diplomatic flurry over the future of the Korean peninsula.
Before leaving Tokyo, the Japanese leader emphasized that during his lightning visit to Washington, he hoped to “closely coordinate and agree” with Trump on an approach to the North Korea issue.
He clearly outlined what would need to happen for the summit to be a success: tangible progress on curbing the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as answers about Japanese nationals kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s.
During their last meeting at Trump’s Florida retreat in April, the US president promised Abe to raise the politically sensitive abductions issue in any talks with Pyongyang.
But the subject is hardly a priority for the businessman-turned-president, whose strategy appears to be in constant flux.
Above all, Trump seems most enthused by the notion of being the first sitting US leader to hold direct talks with a scion of the ruling Kim dynasty.
The intensifying diplomacy on North Korea has so far left Abe as the odd man out: Trump is preparing to meet Kim, while Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in have each already seen the North’s leader twice.
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