• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed hope Friday that the U.S.-North Korea summit to be held in Singapore on June 12 will lead to progress on the issue of the North’s past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Hailing U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on the summit’s venue and schedule through a Twitter post Thursday, Abe said, “We strongly hope this historic U.S.-North Korean dialogue will be an opportunity to move forward on (the North’s) nuclear and missile programs and most importantly the abduction issue.”

Abe told reporters in Sapporo he will closely communicate with Trump through phone calls and other means.

Tokyo hopes that the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un will contribute to a breakthrough in bringing back a number of Japanese nationals kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s. Abe views the issue as one of his government’s top priorities.

“As preparations are being made for the U.S.-North Korea summit, Japan will firmly tell its stance” to the United States, the prime minister added.

Abe added that Japan will cooperate with the United States, South Korea and the international community, including China and Russia, to resolve the various issues related to North Korea through the Singapore summit.

The prime minister agreed with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday, during a trilateral summit in Tokyo, to work together toward the North’s denuclearization. Abe was visiting Hokkaido on Friday to accompany Li.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Friday the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit will aim to realize complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, a goal Tokyo and Washington have been pursuing.

He later told a Diet committee, “It is extremely important to make sure (the international community) keeps pressure on North Korea so that there are no loopholes.”

Speaking at a regular news conference, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said Japan expects North Korea to show “concrete actions” to make clear its future direction.

Asked about the possibility of Japan-North Korea talks, the government spokesman declined to give a direct answer, merely saying potential dialogue “should lead to settling the nuclear, missile and abduction issues.”

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