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North Korea’s nuclear test to top Abe-Obama agenda

Kyodo, JIJI

The North Korean nuclear issue will top the agenda when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds face-to-face talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington this week, a source close to the bilateral relationship said.

During their inaugural summit Friday, Abe aims to coordinate with Obama on cutting off international money transfers to Pyongyang as part of stricter sanctions after the North conducted its third nuclear test last week, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the source said Saturday.

By working with the U.S. to cut the flow of money from global financial markets to North Korea, Abe hopes Japan and its key security ally can demonstrate they are united and resolute in dealing with Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

In an interview Saturday, Abe said such a step “would deal a blow” to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

When Abe and Obama spoke by phone Thursday, the president emphasized that he wants to prioritize the response to North Korea’s latest detonation of an atomic device.

The tougher sanctions envisioned will be similar to those the U.S. has slapped against Iran over its suspected pursuit and development of nuclear weapons, the source said.

The U.S. has barred from its financial markets institutions that process transactions for Iran’s central bank, severely hampering the flow of money to Tehran for oil shipments. The Iranian government has repeatedly argued that its nuclear program is aimed solely at power generation, but Washington and its Western allies view its uranium enrichment activities as cover for the development of nuclear arms.

Among other topics, Abe will seek Obama’s support for his radical monetary easing policies, dubbed “Abenomics,” which he claims are aimed at combatting deflation rather than giving Japanese exporters an unfair advantage. The two leaders will also discuss at length Japan’s potential participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord, according to the source.

“A free environment for trade benefits Japan,” Abe said when interviewed Saturday.

In its campaign for the Dec. 16 general election, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party triumphed on a platform that pledged not to join ongoing multilateral TPP negotiations as long as abolishing all tariffs without exception remains a precondition. But in the interview, Abe, who heads the LDP, voiced confidence about his ability to persuade the many vocal opponents of the TPP within the party’s ranks.

Meanwhile, Abe will convey Japan’s intent to conclude as soon as possible the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, following strong pressure from the United States and European nations. The two will also address the years-old issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture, a plan that remains mired amid fierce local opposition.

Abe and Obama will further discuss the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region in light of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions as well as China’s ever-growing military might, and will exchange ideas on a bilateral framework for surveillance and information-gathering, the source added.

In addition, they will examine greater trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea on missile defense, according to the source.