TOKYO: Japan's prime minister on Friday welcomed the surprise announcement of a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un by the end of May.
"I highly appreciate North Korea's change that it will begin talks on the premise of denuclearisation," Shinzo Abe said, adding that he planned to visit the United States to meet Trump "as early as April".
Japan has been cautious about a recent Olympics-driven rapprochement on the Korean peninsula, with Abe warning on Thursday that "talks for the sake of talks are meaningless".
But he sounded a positive note on the planned Trump-Kim summit, hailing it as "the achievement of cooperation between... Japan, the US, and South Korea to maintain great pressure".
"There is no change in policy for Japan and the United States," he added.
"We will keep putting maximum pressure until North Korea takes concrete actions toward denuclearisation in a manner that is complete, verifiable and irreversible."
Abe said he had spoken to Trump this morning and "agreed that I'd like to visit the US and have a summit with him as early as April".
A readout of the call from Japan's foreign ministry said it occurred shortly before the surprise announcement about the summit was made in Washington.
Trump told Abe that Kim "has made a commitment to denuclearise and hopes to build peace with the United States," the readout said.
Trump "explained that this is the achievement of maximum pressure" put on the North, and confirmed that Washington would "continue sanctions and military pressure" on Pyongyang, it added.
Japan, a close US ally in the region, is in the direct firing line of North Korean missiles and saw two fly over its territory in 2017, sparking outrage and lifting tensions to fever pitch.
South Korean envoys are expected to visit Japan next week to brief Abe on the latest developments in the fast-moving apparent detente.
Trump and Kim are expected to meet by the end of May, though there has been no confirmation of an exact date or location for the shock summit.
Trump himself confirmed the plans in a tweet hailing "great progress" in the push to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme.
"Meeting being planned!" he tweeted.