Japanese PM wants Bush to warn Pyongyang to stick to nuclear deal Amid the cheeseburgers and baseball gossip in the privacy of the Camp David retreat, North Korea looms large in talks today between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President George W. Bush. Japanese officials have stressed that the North Korea issue will form a key part of Mr Abe's agenda - specifically the need for a tough new line from Washington as Pyongyang drags its feet over implementing the February agreement to denuclearise. Japan was the most reluctant signatory to the six-nation deal that promises energy aid and a formal end to the Korean war if Pyongyang takes a series of accountable steps to end the programme that saw it stage its first weapons test last October. Pyongyang's refusal to move over the past two weeks, citing trouble in transferring US$25 million in previously frozen funds out of a Macau bank, has only confirmed Tokyo's worst suspicions. It was Japan that pushed the hardest for tougher measures to keep Pyongyang to its promises. 'It is fair to say we did have reservations about the agreement and those concerns remain,' said one Japanese official privately. 'Those issues will be discussed in Washington. Even by the most optimistic assessment, progress has been poor ... We believe tough new messages need to be sent.' Underpinning the Japanese concern is Mr Abe's frustration at the scant progress made on securing a full accounting from North Korea for the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang from Japanese streets during the 1970s and 1980s. Mr Abe forged a national political reputation by resurrecting the issue in recent years. Since taking office he has consistently sought support from regional governments, including Beijing, but has struggled to make progress on the nuclear deal contingent upon a resolution of the abduction question. Japan's fears over North Korea's medium- and long-range missiles and its nuclear capabilities affect other elements of the US-Japan relationship. The military alliance that has governed regional security for decades will also be discussed. US defence chiefs have long been eager for Japan - which spends less than 1per cent of its GDP on military - to play a greater role as US forces pull back. Mr Abe, meanwhile, is keen to overturn his nation's pacifist constitution as part of his desire for a more assertive, proud Japan. Japan does not have nuclear weapons - although many analysts believe it could quickly obtain them - and relies on the US nuclear umbrella as a deterrent. Japan is home to Washington's only aircraft carrier battle group kept outside the US - a strategic assertion of US power that it is keen to keep. The US still keeps a full air force base on Okinawa. Both sides are also actively discussing missile defence systems. China's economic and military emergence may underpin US-Japan strategic talks but the threat from North Korea is Tokyo's biggest concern in the short term. 'In so many of our discussions, North Korea is the priority, even though the US-Japanese relationship remains our most important,' said one Japanese official. 'Mr Abe is keen for action.' As he seeks a tougher line, Mr Abe is also seeking to assuage US concerns about his approach to historical issues, specifically that of the Asian women forced into sexual slavery in wartime Japanese brothels.