US President Donald Trump has backed a possible face-to-face meeting between the leaders of Japan and North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Mr Trump pledged “full support” to the proposed meeting, in which he wants to have “frank” talks about North Korea’s nuclear policy and Japanese abductees.
The US president said he expected “good things” to come from North Korea.
Mr Trump, who is on a four-day visit to Japan, earlier became the first foreign leader to meet Emperor Naruhito.
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In their meeting on Monday at the Akasaka Palace – a state guest house – Mr Trump and Mr Abe discussed issues ranging from trade to foreign relations.
The Japanese prime minister said the two leaders were on the same page with ambitions to see North Korea denuclearised, but they appeared to disagree over the short-range missile tests conducted earlier this month.
Abductions issue ‘most important’
Mr Abe, who sees the missile tests in nearby North Korea as posing a threat to security in Japan, described them as being “of great regret”, while Mr Trump said he was not “personally bothered”.
The US president also described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “very smart guy” and said he expected “a lot of good things” to come out of North Korea.
His remarks came after North Korea called US National Security Advisor John Bolton a “war maniac”.
As well as backing talks between Mr Abe and Mr Kim, the US president said he would work with Tokyo to bring home Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago.
North Korea has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s, and returned five to Japan in 2002. It maintains the rest are dead – something Japan does not believe.
The Japanese citizens were abducted to train North Korean spies in the Japanese language and customs.
The decades-old issue is a painful chapter in relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo.
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Mr Abe said the abduction issue remained the “most important thing” for his government, adding that families of the abductees were “appreciative” that Mr Trump had met with them on Monday.
“Irrespective of my term in office I have to do everything I can for the resolution of this issue,” he said.
Trade and Iran
Attempts to mend trade disagreements were also central to the discussions between the two leaders.
Ties with the US are of great strategic importance to Japan, and the countries are currently working on a bilateral trade agreement.
Mr Trump described the US’s trade imbalance with Japan as “unbelievably large” but said he hoped to announce a deal very soon.
“They are brilliant business people, brilliant negotiators and have put us in a tough spot but I think we will have a deal with Japan,” he said.
Mr Trump also highlighted US relations with Iran, noting that Mr Abe was close to the leader of the Middle Eastern country.
“I do believe that Iran would like to talk and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” AFP news agency reported him as saying. “Nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”
Mr Trump recently announced that the US would be sending 1,500 troops to the Middle East as tensions rise between the US and Iran.
Meeting the new emperor
Mr Trump also became the first foreign leader to meet Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne earlier this month after his father Akihito stepped down. It was the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in centuries.
“It’s over 200 years since something like this has happened,” Mr Trump said of the abdication on Sunday. “So it’s a great honour to be representing the United States.”
Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were greeted by a Japanese honour guard and crowds waving US and Japanese flags as part of a formal welcoming ceremony on Monday.
The US president is said to have given a slight bow to the emperor and empress before entering the palace, according to Reuters.
But it hasn’t all been meetings and politics.
Mr Trump and Mr Abe met on Sunday to play golf and watch a sumo tournament together.
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Mr Abe tweeted a selfie they took at a golf course south of Tokyo.
Mr Trump and Mr Abe are regular golf partners, and Mr Trump has said they have “very, very good chemistry”.