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Japan, US foreign ministers talk on phone ahead of Trump-Kim summit

Japanise Foreign Minister Taro Kono (right, Mainichi) and U. S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono spoke by phone on Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of a second U.S.-North Korea summit scheduled for next week.

The talks came a day after the two countries' leaders agreed in a telephone conversation to cooperate in tackling issues linked to North Korea, in an apparent display of closer coordination between the longtime allies.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam, with eyes on whether their second summit will yield tangible progress toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has said he is in "no rush" for North Korea to denuclearize and hinted at a third U.S.-North Korea summit, apparently reining in expectations before the upcoming Hanoi meeting.

Despite Kim's commitment to work toward the "complete denuclearization" during the first summit in Singapore in June, differences apparently remain between the United States and North Korea on the how it should be realized.

Washington is demanding Pyongyang dismantle its arsenal with international verification, but Pyongyang has rejected turning over a list of its nuclear and missile facilities.

North Korea has also sought an incremental, action-for-action process in which Pyongyang secures benefits for each move it takes toward denuclearization.

In addition to the denuclearization, Japan wants to see progress in resolving the issue of past abductions by North Korean agents of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, which has prevented the normalization of diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

During Wednesday's phone conversation, Trump promised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would put priority on helping address the abduction issue.

Of the 17 Japanese nationals who Tokyo believes have been abducted by the North, five returned home in 2002. Pyongyang's official position is that eight have died and the other four were never in the country.

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