TOKYO, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set off on Sunday on a four-day visit to Germany, France, Belgium and Italy for talks on trade and security issues.
He is set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, European Council President Donald Tusk, and the new Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni during the trip.
"I want to exchange opinions openly with G7 leaders," Abe told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport before departure.
"We hope to work with the European Union on issues the international community is facing such as the problems on North Korea and free trade," he added.
The trip, coming months ahead of a Group of Seven (G7) summit in May in Italy, also aims to help lay the groundwork for a successful summit, according to Japan's foreign ministry.
Abe is also expected to seek the European countries to impose more pressure on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The DPRK launched four ballistic missiles on March 6, three of which landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.