Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday gave the clearest indication yet that Tokyo may accept Washington's departure from the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and instead settle for a bilateral trade deal with the United States.

"We will, of course, persistently continue to approach America about TPP, but just because we do so doesn't mean other options aren't available," Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee. He was responding to questions from Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Itsunori Onodera.

The remark represents a shift away from Abe's past assertions in the Diet that he will steadfastly try to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to get on board with the TPP, which the bombastic real estate mogul called a "death blow for American manufacturing" on the campaign trail.