Japanese PM Abe may meet Trump in April

US President Donald Trump listens to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, Sept 26, 2018. (Reuters pic)

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may meet President Donald Trump in the United States in late April for talks on North Korea and Japan-US trade, two government officials and Japanese media said on Thursday.

The meeting was requested by the Japanese side and arrangements were being made for the end of April, the Asahi Shimbun daily said, without giving a specific date.

Two government officials familiar with the matter told Reuters that planning for Abe’s visit was underway.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said an overseas trip by Abe had not been decided.

The talks would likely focus on North Korea after Trump’s failed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Feb, against a backdrop of Tokyo’s concern that is being sidelined in those negotiations, the Asahi Shimbun said.

Japan’s cabinet is expected to vote next month on extending unilateral sanctions against North Korea by two years, public broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.

Japan-US trade is also expected to be on the agenda.

Trump has prodded Japanese automakers to add more jobs in the United States as the White House has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25%  on imported vehicles, on the grounds of national security.

Japanese officials have repeatedly said that Abe and Trump agreed last year that Washington would not impose auto tariffs as long as bilateral trade talks are going on.

The Asahi Shimbun said discussions are also being held on a separate meeting in April between Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.