Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe autographs a photograph of a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump displayed at a Tokyo department store. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will seek the cooperation of the United States in dealing with North Korea when he meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in April, but the honeymoon between the two leaders may be over.

Talks are continuing to hold the Abe-Trump summit on April 18 where the Japanese leader is expected to emphasize the importance of maintaining maximum pressure on North Korea even as the U.S. president appears eager to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Abe will seek U.S. cooperation in continuing to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs. He will also ask that Trump raise the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago when he meets with Kim Jong Un sometime before the end of May.

Government officials had initially felt that Trump was receptive on North Korean issues when he met with Abe in February 2017 in Florida.

But more recently, Trump has taken a tougher stance toward Japan in terms of trade. He has criticized the trade deficit the United States has with Japan and said it would be corrected.

When the U.S. government announced a new tariff on steel and aluminum imports on March 23, it left open the possibility of exceptions based on national security. However, so far, Japan, along with China, have not been exempted from the tariffs.

A U.S. government source indicated that the dynamics of the Japan-U.S. relationship had changed, saying that the age of managing bilateral relations based solely on the personal relationship between the two leaders had ended.

With Trump facing congressional midterm elections in November, the U.S. president may seek positive results in terms of trade with Japan when he meets with Abe to reverse slumping approval ratings.

If Trump raises the issue of a free trade agreement between Japan and the United States, Abe might find himself being pressured to make concessions.

(This article was written by Kotaro Ono in Tokyo and Kenji Minemura in Washington.)