Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to leave Japan on Tuesday for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, during which North Korea and trade are expected to top the agenda.
During their two-day meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago vacation resort starting later Tuesday local time, Abe will seek cooperation to resolve the outstanding issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North decades ago. He will ask Trump to take up the issue when the U.S. president meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The first-ever U.S.-North Korean summit is expected to be held by early June, after Kim meets with South Korean President Moon Jae In on April 27.
Abe has said he will also request Trump to seek the elimination of not only North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, but its short- and medium-range missiles that could threaten Japan and South Korea.
On the economic front, the Japanese prime minister is planning to impress upon the U.S. president the significance of multilateral free trade as Trump has pushed for bilateral trade agreements.
Tokyo is preparing to propose setting up a new framework to discuss trade involving the two countries, in the hope of Washington rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, according to a government source.
Although Trump pulled the world's largest economy out of the regional free trade pact upon taking office in January last year, he instructed officials last week to look into returning to it amid a simmering trade spat with China, a non-TPP member.
Following Washington's withdrawal, the remaining 11 members, led by Japan, succeeded in signing a revised version in March.
Japan envisions TPP minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer heading the new trade dialogue, separate from the existing economic dialogue helmed by Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, the source said.
During his sixth face-to-face talks with Trump, Abe is also expected to seek to win an exemption from steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports Washington recently invoked.
The two leaders are also likely to exchange views on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including China's increasing maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea, as well as recent U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria, among other topics.
Abe and Trump played golf two times at previous summits in Florida and Japan last year, but it has not yet been decided whether they will do so this time.