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Japan, Baltic states agree to boost ties, cooperate against N. Korea

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walk together for their meeting at the President's palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Liusjenas Kulbis)

VILNIUS, Lithuania (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with his counterparts from Latvia and Lithuania on Saturday and agreed to strengthen economic ties while seeking cooperation on the security front to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile ambitions.

    Abe, the first Japanese premier to visit the Baltic states, discussed with Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis cooperation in such areas as tourism, technology and medical services. Japan is Lithuania's top export destination, according to the Japanese government.

    "Japan wants to cooperate closely with Lithuania on international issues including the North Korean situation," Abe was quoted by a Japanese official as telling Skvernelis in their meeting in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

    The Japanese premier, on a six-nation European tour, had met Latvian counterpart Maris Kucinskis earlier Saturday and conveyed his desire to strengthen diplomatic as well as economic relations with the country which serves as a logistics center in the region.

    On Friday, he sought cooperation in cybersecurity in his meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas as Japan steps up preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. Estonia has been one of the most successful countries in integrating digital technology across social infrastructure.

    Abe agreed on coordinated efforts to exert more pressure on North Korea to give up its weapons programs in talks with all three Baltic leaders.

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