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Report: Japan did nominate Trump for Peace Prize — at U.S. request

NBC News logo NBC News 2/18/2019 Alex Johnson and Arata Yamamoto and Hallie Jackson
Shinzo Abe, Donald Trump are posing for a picture: Image: Trump and Abe © Mandel Ngan Image: Trump and Abe

Just as President Donald Trump claimed last week, Japan's prime minister has, indeed, nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize — at the request of the White House — one of Japan's largest newspapers reported Sunday.

Trump boasted at a news conference on Friday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had given him a copy of a five-page letter he'd sent to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects the annual Peace Prize laureates.

Referring to Abe, Trump said: "He said: 'I have nominated you, respectfully, on behalf of Japan. I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize.' I said, 'Thank you.'"

The national newspaper Asahi Shimbun, citing multiple Japanese government sources, reported Sunday that the U.S. government "informally" asked Japan to nominate Trump after he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year.

At a meeting of the lower house of Japan's parliament on Monday, Abe said he wouldn't comment on the report because Peace Prize nominations are secret for 50 years. But he did say: "I'm not saying it's not true."

Speaking later to reporters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gave the same reason for declining to comment, saying: "For the past 50 years, the Nobel committee has never revealed the identity of those recommending or those recommended for the award. And so based on this, I would like to refrain from making comments on this."

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Abe has been among Trump's most prominent supporters among world leaders, particularly of his campaign of "maximum pressure" against North Korea.

As early as Nov. 17, 2016, nine days after the presidential election, he called Trump "a leader with whom I can have great confidence in."

The two have presented a friendly relationship in joint public appearances, as in November 2017, when they exchanged jokes at a news conference in Tokyo.

Last April, Abe took the diplomatically unusual step of addressing Trump by his first name in thanking the United States for what he said was its assistance in seeking the release of Japanese citizens who had been abducted by North Korea.

"Donald, you demonstrated your unwavering determination in addressing the challenge," he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said last April that Trump deserved the Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. It remains unclear whether Kim has also nominated Trump.

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