US President Donald Trump will travel to Japan in May for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that are expected to include discussions on North Korea and “efforts to achieve final, fully verified denuclearisation”.
Trump will visit Japan from May 25 to 28, the White House said in a statement on Thursday, adding that “the two leaders will also explore ways to advance their shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including steps that will strengthen our bilateral trade and investment relationship”.
In Tokyo, Trump plans to meet Crown Prince Naruhito, who will become emperor on May 1, a day after the abdication of his father, Emperor Akihito.
Abe is one of Trump’s closest allies on the world stage and Japan was the first stop on Trump’s November 2017 Asia tour.
Trump has touted his good relationship with Abe, which has seen closer security ties given shared concerns about China’s growing power, but he has also made clear he was unhappy with Japan’s trade surplus with the US, which was $67.6bn in goods in 2018, according to US figures.
This week, US and Japanese officials held a first round of talks towards a new trade deal Trump has sought and the US side raised concerns over the “very large” trade deficit with Tokyo.
Last September, Trump and Abe agreed to start trade talks in an arrangement that protects Japanese carmakers from further tariffs while negotiations are under way.
Abe has also insisted on holding his own summit with the North Korean leader to settle the two neighbours’ long-standing differences.
Denuclearisation and the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea decades ago to train spies have been the major obstacles in normalising relations between the two countries.
In 2002, North Korea admitted it kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, five of whom had returned home.
“I will aim at diplomatic normalisation by settling the unfortunate past,” Abe said earlier this year.
“From now on, I want to do our best to collaborate with the US, South Korea and also China and Russia to aim for a solution on North Korean matters, including abduction, nuclear weapons and missiles.”