Abe faces awkward Trump summit on North Korea

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"Abe appears unable to shake off the scandals", said Graham, though he pointed out "there was a time when serving Japanese Prime Ministers would be lucky to register more than 20% popularity ratings". Although Kim may have nuclear missiles capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States, North Korea has already demonstrated many times over that it can rain ballistic horror on Japan any time it chooses. Abe will want to talk about these foreign policy challenges and will have thoughts of his own on how Japan sees both the Syrian civil war and the possibility of a trade war with Beijing.

Then, a second allegation of favoritism resurfaced, in which a friend of Abe got permission to establish a new veterinary school in western Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, plagued by suspected cronyism scandals and cover-ups and with his ratings sliding, will likely step down in June, former leader Junichiro Koizumi was quoted on Monday as telling a weekly magazine.

Another golf outing, as at their Mar-a-Lago and Tokyo meetings in 2017, is being planned, a Japanese official said. Abe said in parliament that he would seek assurances from Trump that during the meeting with Kim Jong-un he would raise the issue of eliminating all North Korean missiles capable of reaching Japan. "We'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June, and I think there will be great respect paid by both parties", he told reporters at a Cabinet meeting.

Professor Green said there was no meaningful significance in North Korea's position - and any wrong move could put the region, including Australia, at risk.

During the talks, Abe will want to make sure Trump doesn't cut a deal with North Korea that leaves Japan exposed to shorter-range missiles that do not necessarily threaten the US.

Experts say the Trump administration would face big hurdles trying to get back into the pact, and Japan and other member countries responded cautiously to the idea last week.

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Unlike many American allies, Japan is still subject to new U.S. tariffs on exports of steel and aluminum to the United States. So ahead of the upcoming midterm USA elections, Trump "may feel that a tough posture on Japan opening its agricultural markets suits him best", she warned.

While Abe has repeatedly said he wants to create a "society in which all women shine", his government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said merely that the matter "should be dealt with by the Finance Ministry".

This double blow came as a surprise to Abe: Since Trump became president, more than any other foreign politician, the Japanese PM had sought closer friendship with the USA leader. But Trump is unhappy about trade between the two countries, which he has described as "not fair" and "not open".

Despite the "quietist approach" of the Abe administration towards America under Trump, it is clear that disquiet exists.

Japan also made requests of China regarding steel overproduction, Kono said, However, he denied an earlier report from Kyodo News that China had asked for Japan's help on USA steel tariffs, which have been imposed on both Japan and China.

Abe is also expected to push the issue of Japanese abductees, one of his top policy priorities. Tokyo has made little progress negotiating for the return of more than a dozen citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s.

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