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File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe depart at the end of a news conference at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(reuters_tickers)

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will focus heavily on the challenge posed by North Korea's nuclear arms program when they meet next week in Florida, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday.

The Trump-Abe summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach comes as U.S. officials are working to set up a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late May or early June.

The official, who briefed reporters at the White House about the Abe visit on condition of anonymity, would not describe the status of negotiations with North Korea on the summit. The exact time and place of the summit have not been established.

"Communications will by definition have to be sufficient for us to establish and prepare a successful summit," the official said. "Preparations are under way."

Abe will be making his second visit to Mar-a-Lago. In February 2017, Trump and Abe were meeting there when North Korea launched a ballistic missile test.

The official said Trump will want to hear more advice from Abe about the prospective meeting with Kim. They will also talk about trade, the Indo-Pacific region and Chinese activity in the South China Sea that has raised tensions in the region, the official said.

The two leaders speak frequently on the phone.

"The president has a great deal of respect for Prime Minister Abe's views on Northeast Asia security. He will certainly want to know what additional thoughts Prime Minister Abe has beyond what he has already shared," the official said.

Trump and Abe will have an initial one-on-one meeting on Tuesday, then will be joined by national security aides for more talks. That night they will dine with their wives.

On Wednesday, the two leaders will have broader discussions about a range of topics, followed by a joint news conference. Unlike last year, the two leaders are not expected to play golf.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham and Phil Berlowitz)

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Reuters