Abe may resign in June, says ex-Japan PM

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TOKYO (AP) - Domestic political scandals and sinking approval ratings are weighing on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he heads to President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort for two days of talks starting Tuesday.

North Korea also retains a 5,000-ton arsenal of chemical weapons, according to the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported Sunday. After renegotiating a free trade deal with South Korea, the Trump administration said South Korean exporters would be largely exempt from the new steel and aluminum tariffs.

Now that Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have agreed to meet, however, Tokyo must also consider its stake in any potential negotiations over the future of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump, however, sees a link between tariffs and trade agreements. He also is expected to ask the United States leader to raise with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Despite the "quietist approach" of the Abe administration towards America under Trump, it is clear that disquiet exists. The U.S.is threatening tariffs on about $50 billion on imports from China to address what it called "unfair Chinese economic practices" in IP and forced technology transfers.

Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, at Haneda worldwide airport in Tokyo on Tuesday, preparing to board a plane bound for the U.S. Abe hopes to keep Japan's interests on the table in a possible U.S.

Out of consideration for voters in farming states, President Trump reaffirmed last week that the USA could return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - the ambitious free trade agreement of the Pacific Rim countries negotiated by President Barack Obama's administration - if there was a "substantial improvement" for the US.

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Under pressure from Republican lawmakers and governors from farm states last week, Trump asked his top economic advisers to take another look at the TPP, which Japan and other countries revived after the USA exit. Intriguing in the run up to this week's summit was the president's instruction to Lighthizer and the new director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, to review the us interests in the TPP, although Trump continued to tweet about the need for an agreement on trade with Japan.

Trade tension between the USA and China is not new. Neither of these cases has produced evidence of direct involvement by Abe, but both have exposed corrupt practices by bureaucrats trying to court favor with the prime minister's staff. But he has suffered plummeting poll ratings over allegations that a nationalist school linked to his wife got preferential government treatment in a land sale.

"Anxiety has grown in Tokyo over the prime minister's "special relationship" with Trump", she said.

While Trump did surprise observers by indicating last week he may be open to rejoining the TPP - an Obama-negotiated trade deal he once slammed - the White House is more likely to push Tokyo to sign a bilateral deal less to Abe's liking. There are also other foreign policy priorities for Washington.

Mr Abe will remind the President about just how much Japan has to lose and the importance of the "maximum pressure" strategy.

Abe was cautious on the issue ahead of the talks, saying only that he would "exchange opinions based on our shared understanding that Japan and the United States will lead the economic growth of the Indo-Pacific region through free and fair trade".

But U.S. and Japanese interests will be hard to reconcile if Trump proves too eager in his quest to find a historic breakthrough.