Abe Says Trump Pledges Support on Missing Japanese Before Summit

(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent much of his first call with U.S. President Donald Trump since November urging him to help resolve the plight of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago.

Trump spoke to Abe Wednesday in advance of his second nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, set for Feb. 27-28 in Hanoi. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, the White House said.

Japan, which relies on the U.S. for security, has a stake in the outcome of the talks as a potential target of any North Korean nuclear or missile attack, and Abe has taken a hard line on maintaining sanctions against its unpredictable neighbor. However, the issue of the missing Japanese remains an emotive one, especially among Abe’s conservative support base.

Abe told reporters he explained at length the feelings of the abductees’ families, with whom he held a meeting earlier in the week, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of the prime minister’s residence.

‘Promised to Cooperate’

“He told me he understood how important the abduction issue was to me and clearly said it was therefore important to him. Just as he did last time, he promised to cooperate,“ Abe said.

While the two have had not spoken for more than two months, they are set to hold another call after the Hanoi summit, Abe said. Trump is also expected to make a pair of trips to Japan later this year, first to meet the country’s new emperor and then for the G20 summit, according to a U.S. administration official.

The president will travel to Japan in May to meet with the new emperor, Crown Prince Naruhito, whose accession is May 1, the official said. He’ll return in late June for a summit of the Group of 20 industrialized nations.

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.

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