Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed Thursday in New York to accelerate arrangements for Trump to make his first official visit to Japan before the end of the year.
Sources close to the matter have said the governments are planning a visit in November.
“I have been holding several telephone meetings with President Trump at appropriate times, but by having him visit Japan, I want to make Japan-U.S. relations even more solid and deepen our bonds,” Abe told reporters after a roughly hourlong meeting with Trump on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly.
“The relationship has never been closer, I believe, with Japan and the United States,” Trump said at the start of the talks.
They also agreed to speed up their plans to hold by the end of the year the second round of a bilateral economic dialogue led by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence, according to a senior Japanese official who sat in on the meeting.
Abe went to the United States for talks with Trump in February. He also held a meeting with the then president-elect in New York in November last year.
The Japanese leader said he and Trump also confirmed in their meeting “the unwavering U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan and the fact that Japan and the United States are with each other 100 percent.”
In light of the threat from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development, a key theme at the annual U.N. gathering, Abe said he and Trump affirmed that they will work together in calling on the international community to strengthen pressure on the North, including through the stringent enforcement of U.N. sanctions.
“It is important for Japan and the United States to work in coordination to urge regions hosting North Korean laborers and maintaining trade with North Korea to cut off the flow of funds, and countries that have diplomatic ties with North Korea to reconsider those ties,” the Japanese official quoted Abe as telling Trump.
The leaders affirmed that they will continue to work together to appeal to China, Russia and other countries to put the maximum possible pressure on North Korea, the official said.
North Korea carried out a sixth nuclear test on Sept 3, which it said was of a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, and has launched missiles across Japanese territory into the Pacific Ocean twice in recent weeks.
Abe said he and Trump also agreed to work together on securing the release of both Japanese abductees and Americans in North Korean custody.
He said Trump “sent a strong message to the world” in New York about the issue of the abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
Trump had mentioned in his general debate address on Tuesday the abduction of “sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl” Megumi Yokota, who has become symbolic of the abductees’ plight, as well as the death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier shortly after his release from North Korean custody in June.
Abe told Trump in their meeting that what happened to Warmbier, who was released in a coma after more than 17 months’ imprisonment, “reconfirmed the appalling human rights situation in North Korea,” the Japanese official said.