Abe hopes Trump meeting will bring Japan in from diplomatic cold

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Japan's Prime Minister wants reassurance that the US won't let Kim Jong Un wriggle out of sanctions with more empty promises of denuclearization.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Abe and Trump will play golf as they did on the sidelines of the previous summits in Florida and Japan a year ago to "further bolster the two leaders' relationship of trust". Trump has been hounded by controversies linked to an investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election, and Abe is struggling with declining popularity because of scandals over suspected cronyism. Today he will return to Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort for two days of meetings on and off the golf...

The two leaders are also likely to exchange views on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including China's increasing maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea, as well as recent USA -led airstrikes on Syria, among other topics.

Abe will attempt to use the personal rapport he has established with the U.S. president over the past 18 months to remind Trump that any deal over North Korea's nuclear program must take into account Tokyo's concerns about the missile threat from Pyongyang. Abe's expected to push Trump to keep a hard-line stance on Pyongyang during those talks.

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This week, during their sixth face-to-face meeting, Abe will seek to use that leverage to secure reassurances from Trump that Japan's interests won't be overlooked during his meeting with Kim in late May or early June. Only getting rid of intercontinental ballistic missiles "has no meaning for Japan", Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also spoke about the Japan-US summit.

"I would like to confirm (with Trump) that we will maintain maximum pressure on North Korea toward its complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of nuclear weapons and missiles", Abe said. Tokyo is eager to avoid being pushed into talks on a two-way free trade agreement aimed not only at market access but at monetary and currency policies.

The two possible options have set the stage for a standoff between the world's largest and third-largest economies on the eve of a summit between the leaders of the two countries.