US in 'high level' talks with North Korea to set up meeting

US in 'high level' talks with North Korea to set up meeting
Photo credit: Newshub

President Donald Trump has disclosed that the United States is having direct talks at "extremely high levels" with Pyongyang to try to set up a summit between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump made the acknowledgement during a picture-taking session with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they opened two days of talks at the president's Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, which is to include a round of golf.

Trump said US officials are looking at five different locations for a late-May or early-June meeting with Kim. Asked if any of those were in the United States, Trump said 'no'.

"We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I really believe this allows good will, that good things are happening," Trump said.

Trump and Abe are having two days of talks largely focused on the prospective summit with Kim as Japan seeks a US commitment that any denuclearisation deal the president seals with Kim will include not just long-range missiles but those that could be aimed at Japan.

Abe obtained an agreement from Trump to bring up the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea during any summit.

Trump said it was possible that diplomatic efforts to arrange a summit will fall short.

"It's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meetings and we'll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken," he said.

Trump also backed efforts between South Korea and the North aimed to end a state of war that has existed between the two countries since 1953.

"They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war. People don't realise the Korean War has not ended. It's going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. Subject to a deal they have my blessing and they do have my blessing to discuss that," he said.

Abe said Japan would like North Korea to agree to a complete, verifiable denuclearisation and that Trump had shown courage in attempting to set up a summit with Kim.

Both leaders could use a successful summit to give themselves a political boost at home.

Trump has been hounded by controversies linked to an investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election, and Abe is struggling with declining popularity because of scandals over suspected cronyism.

Japan fears Trump will try to link vital security matters with touchy trade topics.

Tokyo is eager to avoid being pushed into talks on a two-way free trade agreement aimed not only at market access but at currency policies.

Another irritant on trade is that Japan has not been given an exemption to tariffs on steel and aluminium exports to the United States, unlike the European Union, Canada and Mexico.