With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe having endorsed U.S. President Donald Trump's determination to take military action against North Korea if necessary, Japan faces new difficulties in resolving the issue of abductions of its nationals by Pyongyang.

Abe has said rescuing citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s is a "top priority" for his Cabinet, but if the military option is taken in response to North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat, it would inevitably jeopardize the abductees' lives.

The families of the abductees have opposed the use of force against Pyongyang, and while defense officials are preparing for contingencies, Tokyo is holding out hope that North Korea's nuclear ambitions can be tackled without Washington resorting to military action.