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Japan eyes 'maximum pressure' on N Korea ahead of talks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Trump in April to align strategy aimed at Pyongyang giving up its nuclear programme.

Shinzo Abe to visit Trump

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that he will travel to the United States in mid-April to discuss with President Donald Trump how to put "maximum pressure" on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

In a statement on Monday, Abe told reporters he will visit the US from April 17 to 20 to meet Trump at his vacation home in Florida.

"I hope to have [an] in-depth discussion with President Trump on North Korea and other issues concerning both of our countries over our two-day meeting," the prime minister said. 

Abe said "maximum pressure" is needed, until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear and missile programme "in a verifiable and irreversible way", Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. 

The April meeting comes ahead of a planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May.  

The announcement of the potential breakthrough meeting set off a slew of diplomatic back-and-forth in the Asia-Pacific region, including a surprise meeting between Japan's regional rival, China and Kim in Beijing in late March. 

The deal to hold a summit followed a series of events during last February's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, brightening prospects for a dialogue between the US and North Korea.

Abe also said he wants to take up with Trump the long-standing issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens decades ago.

There were an estimated 17 Japanese nationals who were reportedly snatched by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s. At least five abductees returned to Japan in 2002.

Meanwhile, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Abe will also ask Trump to exempt Japan from the new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

Suga said the two leaders will discuss free trade, "as this is an issue of mutual interest". 

In recent weeks, Trump imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminium products from China, while Beijing hit back with retaliatory tariffs on US products

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