Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, responds to questions in the Upper House Budget Committee session on Jan. 30. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has found himself increasingly under fire over his responses to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders including the temporary ban on refugees and other immigrants.

At the Jan. 30 Upper House Budget Committee session, Renho, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, raised the executive order that has ignited criticism around the world.

Among other things, it bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Africa from entering the United States.

"I hold concerns about any action that could limit freedom and contribute to retaliatory action and division, but what is the prime minister's position on this issue?" she asked.

Abe responded: "I am not in a position to comment."

While avoiding any specific reference to the violation of people's freedom of movement that the executive order might trigger, Abe spoke only in broader terms.

"I believe the handling of refugees should be conducted through cooperation with the international community," he said.

Other opposition parties blasted Abe for not speaking out against the travel ban.

Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, pointed to the many European leaders who have criticized Trump's executive order.

"You must stand in a position of stating what must be stated from the perspective of international principles," Shii told Abe.

At a news conference, Yoshihiko Noda, Democratic Party secretary-general, said: "Japan must obviously hold concerns. Simply saying 'no comment' is nothing more than a stoppage of thinking."

In the current Diet session, trade policy with the United States has been a focus of deliberations in recent days.

With Trump having signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade arrangement, Abe has admitted that he is prepared to enter into bilateral negotiations with Trump over trade.

At the Jan. 27 Lower House Budget Committee session, Nobuyuki Fukushima, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said: "You will be playing into Trump's hands, if you right off the top say that bilateral discussions are on the table. You should have taken a stance of not even entering such a forum."

That triggered a stubborn response from Abe, who said, "We are taking the steadfast policy of lobbying persistently toward (ratification of the TPP)."