Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, pauses during a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photographer: Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg)

Abe Says He’ll Press Trump to Raise Missing Japanese Citizens With Kim

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will press Donald Trump to raise the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea when the U.S. president meets leader Kim Jong Un next week for nuclear talks.

Japan has been pushing to have its position heard on the emotive domestic issue of abductees during Trump’s summit with Kim, planned for Feb. 27-28 in Hanoi. Abe said he would bring up the matter in a telephone call with Trump that could come as soon as Wednesday, the two leaders’ first conversation in more than two months.

While Abe has tried to build a personal rapport with Trump, he has found himself on the outside looking in before the second U.S.-North Korea summit. The Japanese leader on Monday praised Trump’s diplomacy with Kim, but declined to say whether he nominated the U.S. leader for a Nobel Peace Prize.

On Tuesday, Abe told relatives of Japanese abductees that he wanted to “convey my thoughts about how this problem should be resolved to President Trump when we hold our telephone summit.” “I want to have him convey those thoughts to Chairman Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Seventeen Japanese, mostly in their 20s, were taken by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, with five returned in 2002. Japan hasn’t accepted North Korea’s contention that the others are dead.

Abe says that securing their return is his government’s most pressing issue with North Korean, even as he bolsters defenses against the hundreds of missiles Pyongyang can fire at his country.

Surveys show Japanese voters are skeptical about the second Trump-Kim summit. A poll published by the Sankei newspaper Tuesday found about three-in-four respondents didn’t expect the meeting to bring progress toward North Korean denuclearization or securing the abductees’ return.

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