BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he has asked the leaders of four Central European countries for help in a long dispute with North Korea over the abductions of Japanese citizens decades ago.

Abe says he has asked for “understanding and support” on an issue that is “very important” for Japan.

Japan says North Korea abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to train agents in Japanese language and culture to spy on South Korea. Pyongyang has acknowledged abducting only 13 of them. The countries have no diplomatic relations.

Abe met Thursday the prime ministers of Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland and Hungary’s finance minister. The countries form a group known as Visegrad Four.

Abe also stopped in Slovakia as part of his tour of Europe and Washington.