Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Tokyo on Wednesday on a six-day trip to the United States for talks with U.S. President Donald Trump and to Canada for a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations.
Abe will meet with Trump ahead of the U.S. president’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore which is expected to focus on denuclearization.
“I would like to take a lead in discussions on North Korea (at the G-7 summit) along with President Trump,” Abe told reporters at his office before heading to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, adding he hopes the G-7 “will send the message that it is supporting the president in the run-up to the historic U.S.-North Korean summit.”
On the economic front, “I will insist that the G-7, which has developed free and fair economic order, has to play its role for stability of the world economy,” Abe said.
During his seventh meeting with Trump, at the White House on Thursday, Abe will seek to coordinate their policies towards North Korea and confirm close cooperation between the two allies, Japanese officials said.
Abe aims to remind Trump to bring up the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North in the 1970s and 1980s, which he views as one of the most important political issues for his administration, during the U.S. leader’s summit with Kim, according to the officials.
After once having canceled the plan to meet Kim, Trump on Friday reinstated their summit. The decision came after a meeting in the White House with the North Korean leader’s close aide Kim Yong Chol.
While economic sanctions will stay in place, Trump has said he does not want to use the term “maximum pressure” on the North. Abe aims to confirm Trump’s true intention over the shift in rhetoric.
Amid a recent mood for dialogue between the United States and North Korea, Abe is expected to warn Trump, with whom he has established a rapport, not to ease the hardline stance against the North.
Later Thursday, Abe will travel into Canada to attend a two-day G-7 gathering in Charlevoix, Quebec, beginning Friday, which will bring together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and the United States.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will chair the meeting, hopes to discuss topics such as gender equality, women’s empowerment, clean energy and climate change.
But this year’s G-7 summit is likely to be overshadowed by an intensifying trade dispute between the United States and the six other nations over Washington’s 25 percent steel and 10 percent aluminum tariffs imposed on major trading partners as part of Trump’s “America First” policy.
In a gathering last week, G-7 finance ministers lashed out at Washington’s fresh tariffs, with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire saying the meeting has devolved into a “G-6 plus one.”
The seven nations are also divided over Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Britain, France and Germany are signatories.
On the security front, North Korea is likely to be high on the agenda in the run-up to the upcoming Trump-Kim summit.
On Saturday, the final day, the G-7 leaders will hold an outreach session involving leaders of such countries as Argentina, Bangladesh, Kenya, Norway and Vietnam as well as the heads of international organizations including the United Nations and the World Bank.