"If Abe brings up abductions and short and mid-range missiles, it's obvious that Trump will say, 'OK, do something on the economic side,'" said a Japanese ruling party lawmaker well-versed in U.S.-Japan ties, who declined to be identified because the topic and timing are sensitive.
"What Trump wants most is a 'success story,' and that means bringing Japan into bilateral economic talks," the lawmaker said.
Japanese officials fear the U.S. midterm elections this year and other domestic headaches are making Trump especially keen for success both in talks with North Korea and on the economic front, where he has threatened a trade war with China and pressed South Korea into revising a bilateral free-trade deal.
"The midterm elections are foremost in Trump's mind," Katsuyuki Kawai, a special ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) adviser for foreign affairs to Abe, told Reuters.
"This is precisely the time when allies must join together on security matters to face North Korea," Kawai added.