By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump telephoned his Japanese and South Korean counterparts Friday ahead of an historic Winter Olympic Games in South Korea this month.
During Trump's call with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the leaders discussed an expanded missile defense system for Japan and the upcoming relocation of a key U.S. base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the White House said in a readout of the call.
The call comes as Washington and its regional allies, including Japan and South Korea, attempt to curtail North Korea's illegal ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Pyongyang has pursued advances toward a nuclear arsenal and advanced ballistic missiles in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
Most recently, the North tested a new missile in November it said is capable of striking anywhere within the U.S. mainland, raising tensions in the region.
Trump and Abe "agreed on the need to intensify the international maximum pressure campaign to denuclearize North Korea", the White House said.
The international drives comes as the South prepares to host the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, beginning next Friday.
Two dozen South Korean skiers traveled to North Korea on Wednesday to attend joint training sessions after receiving approval from the United States, as Washington bans any incoming aircraft that has been to the reclusive state within 180 days.
The two-day trip is seen as a highly symbolic act of cooperation at a delicate time for inter-Korean ties.
North Korea informed Seoul late Monday it was unilaterally canceling a planned cultural event with the South scheduled for Sunday.
According to Seoul's Unification Ministry, Pyongyang took the decision because it was upset by "biased" reporting in South Korea.
This week's twists in Seoul-Pyongyang relations demonstrate the challenges even of simply maintaining a reconciliatory mood in line with the Winter Games, which will begin in South Korea on Feb. 9.
While speaking with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump wished Moon "and the Korean people a successful Winter Olympic Games" and discussed the North Korea’s human rights record, according to the White House.
"The two leaders discussed the importance of improving the human rights situation in North Korea and underscored their commitment to work together on this issue," the White House said.
"President Trump also reinterated (sic) his commitment to addressing the trade imbalance between the two countries," the White House added.