TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to meet in the United States next month, following Trump's acceptance of an invitation to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Speaking after a telephone call with Trump, Abe hailed the "change" in North Korea's stance, seen in its decision to "begin dialogue on the basis that it will denuclearize."
"I agreed with President Trump that (this development) is the result of Japan, the United States and South Korea, together with the international community, having continued to put a high level of pressure on North Korea," Abe said.
"The solid position of Japan and the United States -- that we will continue to put maximum pressure on North Korea until it takes concrete actions toward the complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of its nuclear (weapons) and missiles -- is absolutely unwavering," he said.
Trump said he will meet with Kim by May at the North Korean leader's invitation, according to Chung Eui Yong, head of South Korea's National Security Office. Chung is visiting Washington to brief the Trump administration about his meeting earlier this week with Kim in Pyongyang.
Abe said he also discussed with Trump the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, and asked for his cooperation in resolving the issue.
Abe quoted Trump as saying he understood everything the Japanese leader had told him.
"I will continue to coordinate with President Trump toward resolving North Korea's nuclear and missile (development) and the abduction issue, and we will address these issues in even closer cooperation," Abe said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, said North Korea's offer of talks with Trump shows it is moving toward denuclearization.
But Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said North Korea needs to abandon its nuclear program for the proposed talks by May to have any meaning.
"There is no change to our position that North Korea needs to display concrete actions toward denuclearization in order for dialogue to be meaningful," Onodera said at a press conference.
A senior Foreign Ministry official expressed reservations, saying the developments are "a bit quick."