TAORMINA, ITALY —
U.S. President Donald Trump says terrorism and North Korea are top items on the agenda for the leaders’ summit of the Group of Seven nations, which began Friday on Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island.
Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the U.S. president said the meeting would have a “particular focus on the North Korea problem.”
While terrorism would also be a primary concern for the leaders during their two days of talks on the Italian island, North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing and ballistic missile development comprise “a big problem, it’s a world problem,” said Trump. “It will be solved at some point. It will be solved, you can bet on that.”
Trade is another major topic on the minds of Trump’s counterparts who have gathered in the resort town of Taormina.
They are hoping to soften Trump’s stance on trade and climate change.
“We will have a very robust discussion on trade and we will be talking about what free and open means," the director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, told reporters on Air Force One on the flight to Sicily from Belgium.
In Brussels, at the opening of a new headquarters for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the U.S. president bluntly confronted other leaders of the alliance, asserting that their failure to meet financial pledges on defense spending is not fair “to the people and taxpayers of the United States.”
Trump is also at odds with other leaders on climate change.
During the G-7 there will be “fairly robust” talks on whether Trump should honor Washington’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement signed two years ago, said Cohn, who is the president’s chief economic advisor.
During his presidential campaign, in which he took numerous controversial stances, Trump referred to man-made global warming as a “hoax.”
The G-7, going back more than a decade, has repeatedly recognized the threat of climate change, but U.S. officials may be pushing to weaken language in the Taormina communique.
“It would be extremely rare for this major set of developed countries to not send a clear signal regarding climate change,” according to Jake Schmidt, the international program director of the National Resources Defense Council.
Along with the United States, the other members of the G-7 are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain. The European Union is also represented.
The group of wealthy nations also included Russia between 1997 and 2014 and was known as the G-8. But after Moscow’s invasion of Crimea, Russian participation was suspended.
For Russia to return it would have to adhere to the “Minsk accords, and implementing those, restoring Ukrainian sovereignty,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Wednesday.