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Mr Abe is seeking Mr Xi's agreement on a demand that North Korea takes specific actions towards denuclearisation, Nippon TV reported.

It was not immediately clear whether Giuliani had direct knowledge of negotiations around the issue.

China's top diplomat, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is visiting North Korea following last week's historic meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae In and the North's Kim Jong Un, when both pledged to improve ties. Kim Dong-chul, a pastor, was arrested for proselytizing in the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone in October 2015.

Trump did not mention Korea or the prisoners when he spoke at a prayer event at the White House on Thursday. "You'll see some very good announcements very shortly", he said.

"As everybody is aware, the past administration has long..."

This comes after President Trump appeared to offer encouraging news about the three Americans imprisoned in the country.

With just weeks left for a landmark summit between the United States and North Korea, President Donald Trump has once again reiterated the idea of withdrawing USA troops from South Korea.

Washington and Pyongyang are known to be in talks over their possible repatriation.

Trump has promised to ensure that North Korea does not get the capability to build a nuclear bomb that can hit the mainland United States. Victor Cha, who was dropped from consideration to be ambassador to Seoul several months ago, told the Times that the move would appeal to Trump's base, save the USA money, and give him a bargaining chip for when he talks to Kim.

The United States has been demanding the North free Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong-chul and reports have said the two sides were close to reaching a deal on their release.

The president reportedly said this week that the location and date of the upcoming summit may be announced soon. Trump said he would maintain pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions ahead of his own meeting with Kim.

The three Americans being held in North Korea could be released soon. "It embarrasses them", said Cindy Warmbier, Otto's mother.

They added that "there is recent historical precedent for the White House keeping Congress consistently informed during delicate global negotiations", pointing to briefings the Obama administration routinely held with lawmakers on Iran.