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The Latest: White House says NKorea talks at highest level

Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Shinzo Abe, Akie Abe
The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump hosting Japan’s Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago (all times local):

7:55 p.m.

The White House says the U.S. has had talks “at the highest level” with North Korea’s government in advance of a planned summit. But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarifies those talks were not with President Donald Trump directly.

Trump appeared to answer in the affirmative Tuesday evening when asked whether he had been speaking directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But he said as he sat down for dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “Let’s leave it a little bit short of that,” adding, “We have had talks at the highest level.”

Trump is hosting Abe at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

In a surprise move last month, Trump accepted an invitation from Kim to meet in person in the coming months

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4:15 p.m.

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.

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3:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says conversations between North and South Korea to end their decades-long war have his blessing.

Speaking as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his private club in Florida, Trump confirmed that the two Koreas are negotiating an end to hostilities. A meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected in next week. Trump said the leaders “do have my blessing” to discuss an official end to the war.

Meanwhile, Trump says five locations are under consideration for the historic U.S.-North Korea meeting, which he hopes will take place in the next two months.

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3:20 p.m.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is praising President Donald Trump’s “courage” for accepting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s invitation for an in-person meeting.

Speaking through a translator as he begins two days of meetings with Trump on North Korea policy and trade issues, Abe says the U.S. and Japanese effort to place “maximum pressure” on Kim’s government has been successful.

Abe says: “I’d like to commend Donald’s courage in his decision to have the upcoming summit meeting with the North Korean leader.” Trump says five locations are under consideration for that meeting, which could take place within two months.

Abe added that he will raise the issue of Japanese abductees held in North Korea, calling it “a priority issue for Japan.”

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3:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

On the agenda for their two-day summit: Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which Japan views warily.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss other issues, including trade and energy. Abe is likely to push Trump to exempt Japan from new steel and aluminum import tariffs, and encourage him to rejoin the Trans-Pacific trade partnership.

They’re also expected to play a round of golf.

It’s Abe’s second trip to the private Florida club that Trump has dubbed the “winter White House.”

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1:05 p.m.

The White House is leaving open the option of providing exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs for Japan as President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepare to kick off a two-day summit in Florida.

Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, says issuing Japan the waiver to the Trump-ordered sanctions or opening negotiations on a new trade agreement with Japan are “all on the table.”

Most other key U.S. allies, including Australia, Canada, the European Union, and Mexico have been granted exemptions to the protectionist measures, which went into effect last month. Obtaining a waiver is a priority for Abe at the summit.

Trump last week directed Kudlow to lead the administration’s reconsideration of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord, but Kudlow says right now, it’s more thought than policy.

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12:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump will play host to Japan’s Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago this week amid growing strain between the two countries over the president’s planned meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his push for new tariffs.

The visit, beginning Tuesday, will be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea, which Japan eyes warily.

It will also serve as a test of whether the fond personal relationship the two leaders have forged on the golf course and over meetings and phone calls has chilled over Trump’s recent moves, including his failure to exempt Japan from new steel and aluminum tariffs.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that she expects the visit to be “very positive.”

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