Abe, Obama discuss U.S.-China summit, Senkakus in phone talks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama held telephone talks Thursday over details about the weekend summit between the United States and China, and agreed on the importance of dialogue between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, according to officials.

During the talks, Abe and Obama also reaffirmed continued cooperation in the handling of North Korea, pledging to keep working "together closely toward the elimination" of Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the White House said.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference Thursday morning that the leaders would "likely talk about the U.S.-China summit," held in California, and that it would be a gesture on the U.S. side "to give considerations" to its long-time ally Japan.

On the economic front, Obama said during the telephone conversation with Abe that the United States hopes to welcome Japan's participation in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership "as early as possible."

The talks came after Obama was quoted by a U.S. official as telling Xi that "the parties should seek to deescalate, not escalate" the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, administered by Japan but claimed by China, and "to have conversations about this through diplomatic channels and not through actions out of the East China Sea."

In response, Xi had told Obama that China will resolutely protect the integrity of its sovereignty and territory.

In Thursday's talks, Abe and Obama "agreed on the importance of ensuring stability and pursuing dialogue as it relates to the East China Sea," according to the White House.

Tensions between Japan and China have mounted after Tokyo purchased parts of the Senkaku Islands last year, with Chinese ships repeatedly entering Japanese territorial waters near the islands, keeping Japanese authorities on alert.

Tokyo has maintained there is no territorial dispute over the territory, and Washington has said its security pact with Japan covers the islands.