US President Donald Trump on Friday described North Korea as a global problem that would be “solved” as he held a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before the start of the G7 summit in Italy.

“It’s a big problem, it’s a world problem and it will be solved. At some point it will be solved. You can bet on that,” Trump said in reference to Pyongyang, Efe news reported.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington over North Korea’s continued missile programme have escalated since Trump took office in January.

In April, Trump claimed to have sent a fleet of US Navy vessels towards the Sea of Japan in an apparent show of force in the region, but the US President has since signalled that he would prefer a diplomatic solution to the situation in North Korea, using China’s President Xi Jinping as a mediator.

In early May, Trump even suggested that he would meet with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un under the “correct circumstances”, although this was later downplayed by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

G7 leaders from Germany, Canada, the US, France, Italy, Japan and the UK were meeting for a two-day summit in Sicily.