As Trump Meets Japanese Prime Minister, Trade And Nukes On The Agenda President Trump begins two days of meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday. North Korea's nuclear threat and trade are expected to dominate the discussions.
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Trade And Nukes On The Agenda As Trump Meets Japan's Prime Minister

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Trade And Nukes On The Agenda As Trump Meets Japan's Prime Minister

Trade And Nukes On The Agenda As Trump Meets Japan's Prime Minister

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump said today the U.S. has entered into high-level talks with North Korea. The president made that announcement at his private resort in South Florida where he's meeting today and tomorrow with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two are talking about the North Korean nuclear threat as well as trade differences and their plan to sneak in a round of golf tomorrow. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from West Palm Beach, Fla. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good evening, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about these high-level talks the president mentioned with North Korea - seems like he's come a long way from calling Kim Jong Un Little Rocket Man.

HORSLEY: (Laughter) Indeed he has, Ari. You know, last month, the president surprised just about everyone really when he accepted Kim Jong Un's invitation to a summit meeting. And in anticipation of that summit, Trump says the U.S. has been engaging in some high-level diplomacy with Pyongyang.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have had direct talks at very high levels - extremely high levels - with North Korea. And I really believe there's a lot of goodwill. Lot of good things are happening. We'll see what happens. As I always say, we'll see what happens.

HORSLEY: No date has been set yet for the meeting with Kim, although Trump says it could come in early June, maybe a little sooner than that. He also says the two sides are looking at five possible locations for the meeting.

SHAPIRO: This worries Japan's prime minister, who is President Trump's guest at this week's summit. Explain why this is of concern to Japan.

HORSLEY: Shinzo Abe worries that despite his tough rhetoric towards North Korea, President Trump might come away from his meeting with Kim having agreed to something less than a full dismantling of North Korea's nuclear and missile program. Obviously Japan is a much closer target for North Korea than the United States is. And so Abe spoke to reporters this afternoon through an interpreter.

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PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: (Through interpreter) I'd like to underscore the importance of achieving the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization as well as the abandonment of missile programs of North Korea.

HORSLEY: Now, White House aides say Japan has no need to be concerned, that not only is Trump himself hawkish when it comes to North Korea and its nuclear weapons, but he's got a hawkish new national security adviser in John Bolton to argue against any backsliding.

SHAPIRO: The other big focus of this meeting is trade. And I know Japan's not happy with Trump's new steel tariffs. Explain the dynamic there.

HORSLEY: Yeah. Japan is really feeling the pinch of those new tariffs - 25 percent on imported steel. Other big steel suppliers like Canada and South Korea got an exemption from those tariffs, but Japan did not. This could be President Trump's way of putting pressure on Japan to enter into some sort of bilateral trade talks. But so far, Tokyo has shown no interest of that - in that.

Japan is party, however, to the big Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation - now 11-nation deal that Trump pulled out of. Last week, Trump floated the idea that maybe the U.S. will re-enter the TPP, but his economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, cast some doubt on that today about whether that's going anywhere.

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LARRY KUDLOW: For the American side at the moment, it's more of a thought than a policy. That's for sure.

HORSLEY: Trump himself has said the U.S. would only re-enter the TPP if it could get better terms, and that doesn't seem terribly likely.

SHAPIRO: Also important on the agenda - golf (laughter). President Trump and Shinzo Abe are going to play a round tomorrow.

HORSLEY: Yes. Aides had insisted in the run-up to this meeting that there was no time for golf, that this was a working meeting. But in a not terribly surprising development, Trump himself said they will try to sneak off and play a round tomorrow morning. He and Abe are both avid golfers. When Abe visited Trump just after the 2016 election at Trump Tower, he presented the president-elect with a fancy golf driver. And they bonded on the links both here in Florida and in Japan. Some history here, Ari - Abe's dad was also prime minister, and he once played golf with then-President Eisenhower.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Scott Horsley speaking with us from West Palm Beach, Fla. Thanks, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

SHAPIRO: And one final note - at this hour, The Washington Post is reporting that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is nominated to be secretary of state, made a secret trip to North Korea weeks ago, where he met with Kim Jong Un. NPR has not independently confirmed that report.

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