President Donald Trump says the U.S. and North Korea are speaking directly and at “extremely high levels” in advance of a potential meeting with Kim Jong Un.
Trump made the comment during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump’s private club in Florida. The two leaders are trying to coordinate their thinking on the summit, which Trump would like to hold within the coming two months.
The president did not answer shouted questions about whether he has spoken with Kim.
Trump told Abe he would raise the issue of Japanese abductees held by North Korea, which Abe is calling a "top Japanese priority," during any potential meeting with Kim.
Trump on Tuesday gave his blessing for North and South Korea to discuss ending their decadeslong war and said that without his help, the two countries "wouldn't be discussing anything."
Trump confirmed that the two Koreas are negotiating an end to hostilities ahead of a meeting between North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week. The meeting will be the third inter-Korean summit since the Koreas' 1945 division.
"They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war," said Trump, who welcomed Abe to his Florida resort on Tuesday.
Trump is looking to hold his own summit with Kim in the next two months and said five locations are under consideration. The president made the surprising announcement weeks ago that he had accepted an invitation to sit down with Kim following months of increasingly heated rhetoric over the North's nuclear weapons program.
On Tuesday, Abe praised Trump for his bravery for agreeing to meet with Kim.
"I'd like to commend Donald's courage in his decision to have the upcoming summit meeting with the North Korean leader," said Abe, who has voiced fears that short- and medium-range missiles that pose a threat to Japan might not be part of the U.S. negotiations.
Trump took credit for the inter-Korean talks, saying, "Without us and without me, in particular, I guess you would have to say, they wouldn't be discussing anything."
North Korea has long sought a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. It is unusual for the North to seek to broach the issue directly with South Korea rather than with Washington itself. The armistice that ended the fighting was signed by the United Nations Command — the U.S.-led forces in the conflict — North Korea and China. South Korea was a member of the U.N. Command but was not a direct signatory.