Donald Trump leads efforts to persuade North Korea to relinquish nuclear weapons

US president Donald Trump is leading international efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, the US ambassador to Canada has said.

Ambassador Kelly Craft offered that assessment as foreign ministers from the G7 group of industrialised nations began meetings in Toronto to discuss global peace and security challenges, with the North Korean nuclear crisis and tensions with Russia taking centre stage.

"President Trump is really carrying the water on the North Korea issue. It's something we've also been working closely with Canada on," Ms Craft said in a statement.

North Korea has pledged to suspend long-range missile tests and close its nuclear test site ahead of a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In.

Mr Trump is also working on his own landmark meeting with the North Korean leader in the coming weeks, after dispatching CIA director Mike Pompeo on a secret mission to meet with Mr Kim two weeks ago to set the table. No date has been set, and there is uncertainty about what Mr Trump might be able to accomplish.

Mr Trump has nominated Mr Pompeo to be US secretary of state but Mr Pompeo is not in Toronto as his confirmation faces opposition in the Senate. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is representing the US instead.

The foreign ministers meeting precedes a June summit in Canada of leaders of the G7 countries - the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.

In other areas, the foreign ministers meeting is expected to focus on US complaints about Iran's influence in the Mideast and its nuclear programme as well as ways to pressure Russia over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

It is the first high-level meeting of the allies since the United States, France and Britain staged air attacks targeting chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack April 7.

The group last week condemned what it said was a Russian nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain. Russia denies any involvement in the nerve attack on British soil in March.

Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland made no public comment on North Korea as she opened Sunday's talks at the University of Toronto with a meeting of women foreign ministers.

Canada has made the advancement of gender equality a domestic theme and will raise the issue at the G7 meeting, and on Sunday she joined with the European Union in announcing a worldwide gathering of female foreign ministers in September.

Ms Freeland wants the disruptive influence of Russia to be a top agenda item at the G7 session and asked Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin to join part of Sunday's talks. She has singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin as a major disrupter in current affairs.

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin told the G7 ministers that Russia is using Ukraine as a testing ground for its information war against Western democracy and he urged them to take a strong stand those Kremlin efforts.

"Fundamentally, Ukraine is perceived by many, and also by Russia, as a sort of test range for testing Russian non-conventional warfare - hybrid war," Mr Klimkin said.

- PA

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