Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that his country would continue pushing for a trans-Pacific trade deal, but he hoped the U.S. would rejoin the pact.

Following Washington’s exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11 remaining members have kick-started discussions on how to proceed without the U.S. and recently wrapped up talks in Toronto. In an exclusive joint interview with CNBC and Broadcast Satellite Japan, Abe said Japan would like to exercise leadership in promoting the TPP among member countries.

“We have finally come to an agreement on the rules of free and fair trade. We hope to utilize that agreed framework. Unfortunately, the U.S. has declared withdrawal from the TPP. Since we have come thus far, Japan must now take on a leadership role and bring the talks forward,” Abe said in Japanese. “We would like to capitalize upon the result of our long years of efforts.”

The prime minister added that “momentum” should not be lost, but he left the door open for a U.S. return to the deal.

“Eleven countries have made their judgement on the assumption that the U.S. will be in TPP. We need to consider what is best and the 11 countries must be united. Since the U.S. understands the importance of having free and fair rules in the trading world, our wish is that the U.S. will return to TPP,” he added.

The prime minister also welcomed President Donald Trump’s approach on curbing North Korean nuclear aggression in light of failures by previous U.S. administrations.

“President Trump says all options are on the table. He is demonstrating this position both by words and by action. We regard this highly,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully conducted yet another ballistic missile test over the weekend. The launch was designed to assess whether the newly developed mid-to-long range rocket was capable of carrying a large-scale heavy nuclear
warhead, according to North Korea’s state-owned media.

The Japanese PM also acknowledged North Korea’s technological advancement.

“It is indeed very clear that the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear program is now entering into a new stage. That is our recognition,” Abe said.

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