LA MALBAIE, QUEBEC – The leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations agreed on Friday to pursue North Korea’s denuclearization despite the growing rift between the United States and other members over trade.
The situation surrounding North Korea and its nuclear program was one of the key agenda items during the talks in La Malbaie, Quebec, on the first day of the annual gathering. U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold an unprecedented summit with reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday in Singapore.
“The G7 has ‘completely’ agreed on how to respond to North Korea,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed that he wanted North Korea to agree to a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” dismantling of its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, in addition to ballistic missiles of all ranges, Nishimura said.
Tokyo received support from its G7 peers for its call to swiftly resolve the abduction issue, the government spokesman said.
During talks chaired by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the G7 leaders agreed to contribute to the success of the Trump-Kim summit, the spokesman added.
As for trade, the United States and other G7 nations were at odds over new U.S. metal tariffs just as their finance ministers were during talks earlier in the month.
Washington has imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports from major trading partners including Canada, the European Union and Japan.
The White House had said Trump would leave the summit earlier than initially planned and skip the last session on climate change and oceans on Saturday to head to Singapore. G7 officials say it is not yet known whether the leaders can conclude the gathering with a joint statement.
Trump was isolated at his first G7 summit last year because of his stance on the Paris climate accord. The U.S. president then announced his intention to pull Washington out of the landmark deal on climate change.
The participating leaders “traded barbs” over the topical issue of Trump’s new metal tariffs, with many of them critical of the protectionist move, according to Nishimura.
As part of Trump’s “America First” trade policy, Washington invoked the steel and aluminum tariffs in March, saying they were necessary for national security.
The administration initially exempted Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and South Korea from the duties, but imposed the tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico last week, prompting retaliatory measures.
After the gathering of G7 finance ministers last week in Whistler, British Columbia, a summary statement written by Ottawa condemned the U.S. policies, and French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the meeting had devolved to the “G6 plus one.”
The G7 summit brings together the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus the European Union.
Emphasizing free and fair trade, Abe told other participants that imposing punitive tariffs and their retaliatory measures would not advance the interests of any of the seven countries.
Ottawa may only release a chairman’s summary of the meeting, Reuters reported, citing G7 officials.
Among other topics, the G7 leaders confirmed that it is important to urge China to play a “constructive” role in addressing regional and global challenges.
Among the participating leaders, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte made his diplomatic debut after being sworn in last week.