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Abe to hold talks with Trump on May 27 to discuss N. Korea, trade

This combined file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on May 27, with North Korea and bilateral trade probably topping the agenda, Japanese government sources said Wednesday.

During his May 25 to 28 stay in Japan as a state guest, Trump is expected to play golf with Abe and watch sumo at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on May 26, and they plan to board Japan's Izumo-class destroyer Kaga docked at a Maritime Self-Defense Force base in the city of Yokosuka on May 28, the sources said.

Trump and his wife Melania will be the first state guests since Japan's new imperial era called Reiwa started on May 1, when Emperor Naruhito took the throne. They are expected to meet with the emperor and Empress Masako on May 27.

During the summit, Abe will explain to Trump that he is determined to seek talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions, the sources said.

Abe's recent call for an unconditional meeting with Kim is interpreted as a shift from his stance that a guarantee of progress on resolving North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s should be a prerequisite for any summit.

Arrangements are being made for Trump, who raised the abduction issue during his talks twice with Kim, to meet with family members of victims.

Abe will also likely seek closer coordination in dealing with North Korea, which fired a series of projectiles on May 4 and 9, including those identified by the United States and Japan as ballistic missiles.

Separate sources, however, revealed Wednesday that Tokyo and Washington have not been on the same page over how best to respond to North Korea's firing on May 4 of the projectiles that flew up to 200 kilometers.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the launch "did not present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan" as they were relatively short range.

During a recent working-level meeting of U.S., Japanese and South Korean defense officials in Seoul, Japan touched on Pompeo's remarks and said there is a need to take a firm stand against the launch that likely violated U.N. resolutions, according to the sources.

But the United States expressed its preference for a restrained response, pointing to the fact that Trump is eager to meet with Kim for a third time to step up diplomacy, the sources said.

In response to the May 9 ballistic missile launch, Japan protested to North Korea as it contravened U.N. Security Council resolutions. But Trump said he did not consider the launch as a breach of trust by Kim.

The second U.S.-North Korea summit in February in Hanoi did not yield major progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the string of missile launches are seen as Pyongyang's frustration with Washington.

Besides North Korea, trade is another issue of bilateral concern in the forthcoming Japan-U.S. summit. Abe and Trump are expected to confirm the two nations will accelerate ongoing talks in a way that can benefit both sides, according to the Japanese government sources.

The bilateral trade talks were launched in April after Trump took issue with the hefty U.S. trade deficit with Japan.

Trump's visit to Japan will be the first since November 2017 and will precede another one in late June for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka.

Abe, who last met Trump in April in Washington, hopes to strengthen the bilateral alliance through the flurry of face-to-face meetings. Abe's hosting of Trump for four days is "rare," a diplomatic source said, as state guests normally spend three days in Japan.

At the MSDF Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, the vessel Abe and Trump plan to see together is one of the two Japanese destroyers capable of carrying helicopters.

The destroyers will be remodeled to accommodate F-35 stealth fighter jets that Japan plans to purchase from the United States.

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