Japan leader Abe on Nordic tour talks with Danish leader

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks on free trade and North Korean missile tests Monday in Copenhagen with his Danish counterpart Lars Loekke Rasmussen, at the end of a Nordic tour which also took him to Sweden and Finland.

The meeting between Abe and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen was the first one-on-one meeting in Denmark between Denmark's head of government and a Japanese prime minister.

Earlier in Helsinki, after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Abe pledged to increase cooperation on Arctic issues and on furthering Russian relations. He said Japan would increase its role in the Arctic Council by "positively contributing more than in the past to (its) activities."

"We will be enhancing our cooperation in the area of the environment regarding the Arctic regions," Abe said in prepared statements by the two leaders.

Niinisto told Finnish media later Monday that the Arctic was facing increasing commercial "pressures" from various countries including Japan, which has observer status at the eight-member council now chaired by Finland.

"They (Japanese) are particularly interested in the Northeast Passage," Niinisto said, referring to the Arctic shipping route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

After discussing bilateral relations, international issues and economic cooperation, the two countries signed several agreements, including on developing environmental cooperation.

Abe noted that Japanese tourists were increasingly flocking to Finland. He attributed the interest partly to Japanese children's affinity to the "Moomins," the popular Finnish book and comic strip characters, and to Santa Claus, who is known in Japan to live in Finnish Lapland.

He congratulated Finland on its 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, with which it shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border.

"We reaffirmed our close collaboration in our relationship with Russia," Abe said without elaborating the content of his talks with Niinisto.

Before arriving in Finland, the Japanese leader met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in Stockholm, where the two leaders demanded that North Korea halt missile tests, and pledged increased cooperation in the U.N. Security Council.