WATCH LIVE: President Trump welcomes Japanese Prime Minister to White House
(AP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, unable to meet North Korea’s leader himself, is heading to Washington to try to make sure President Donald Trump doesn’t overlook Japan’s security and other concerns at the unprecedented U.S.-North Korea summit next week.
Abe will have less than two hours to make his points to Trump at the White House on Thursday, before both go to Canada for a G-7 summit on Friday and Saturday, and the American president then flies to Singapore for his June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Japan, which relied on the U.S. for its post-World War II diplomacy and security, has been absent in the recent burst of engagement with North Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have both met Kim twice, as Abe waits his turn to raise Japan’s concerns directly.
“I want to make sure to be on the same page with President Trump ahead of the first ever U.S.-North Korea summit so we can push forward nuclear and missile issues, and most importantly the abduction problem, and make for a successful summit,” Abe told reporters before leaving for the airport.
Abe doesn’t want Trump to strike a compromise that would leave Japan exposed to shorter-range missiles that do not threaten the U.S. mainland or that relieves pressure on North Korea before it takes concrete steps toward complete denuclearization. He is expected to ask Trump once again to raise with Kim the fate of Japanese abducted by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.
“It wouldn’t be my style to have to ask the U.S. for help on the abduction issue,” said Hitoshi Tanaka, a former diplomat and head of a think tank, the Institute for International Strategy. “It’s embarrassing that a state leader has to ask another leader in resolving the sovereignty of his people.”
While in Washington, Abe will also likely press Trump to remove Japan from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as express his opposition to threats of sharply higher U.S. tariffs on imported automobiles. Abe said he will show at the G-7 summit his full backing for Trump on North Korea, but he will urge everyone to take leadership in promoting free and fair trade rather than escalating disputes.
Japan hopes to hold talks with North Korea after a successful Trump-Kim summit. Abe has said he is open to meeting with Kim, but only if it would lead to resolving the abduction issue. He said Japan would then normalize ties and provide economic aid as rewards for a North Korean commitment to both denuclearization and resolution of the abduction issue.
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