• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed Friday to cooperate over their countries’ coronavirus response and development of treatment drugs and vaccines, a top Japanese official said.

During phone talks held at Japan’s request, Abe and Trump also explained efforts being made by their countries to contain COVID-19 and toward resuming economic activities, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

“It was very meaningful that the Japanese and U.S. leaders confirmed coordination via phone talks at a time when global unity is being required (to fight the coronavirus),” Suga said.

As countries look for effective COVID-19 drugs and vaccines, Japan fast-tracked approval Thursday for the use of the anti-viral medicine remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. of the United States, to treat coronavirus patients.

Abe and Trump talked about remdesivir and another potential COVID-19 treatment drug, Avigan, a senior Japanese government official said without giving further details.

Expectations have grown that remdesivir can help treat patients with severe symptoms but potential supply shortages are a concern. The anti-flu drug Avigan is expected to be approved in Japan later in the month for use in COVID-19 treatment.

The telephone conversation was the first since late March when Abe briefed Trump on a coronavirus-forced one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to the summer of 2021.

Trump is seeking to reopen the world’s largest economy. In Japan, while the number of coronavirus cases is far lower than that of the United States, Abe extended the nationwide state of emergency until the end of May to curb infections further and reduce the burden on hospitals.

In Friday’s telephone conversation, Abe and Trump discussed the situation in North Korea and “completely agreed” that they will work together to resolve the issues of the country’s nuclear weapons, missiles and past abductions of Japanese nationals, the senior Japanese official said.

Abe has yet to deliver on his pledge to resolve the abduction issue, which dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, with no summit held so far with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

After media reports and speculation that Kim may be gravely ill, he made his first public appearance in early May after a 20-day hiatus.

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