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Japan, France Agree to ‘Coordinate Closely’ on China Issues

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and First Lady Yuko Kishida during a visit to the Peace Memorial Park on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 19, 2023. The G-7 summit will be held in Hiroshima from May 19–22. (Franck Robichon/Pool/Getty Images)

The leaders of Japan and France agreed on Friday to strengthen their bilateral economic and security cooperation and pledged to “coordinate closely” on issues related to China.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and French President Emmanuel Macron held talks ahead of a G-7 leaders summit in Hiroshima, Japan, during which they exchanged views on the situation in East Asia.

Both sides affirmed their commitment to “coordinate closely in addressing issues related to China,” as well as dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, the Japanese foreign ministry stated.

The two leaders pledged to keep imposing sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine and providing strong support for Ukraine. They seek to uphold a free and open international order based on the rule of law.

They also pledged to advance cooperation in cyber, space, and civil nuclear energy. Both sides agreed to implement joint military training and send 100 Japanese entrepreneurs to France over five years.

Japan-France Summit Meeting #France

— MOFA of Japan (@MofaJapan_en) May 19, 2023

This followed Kishida’s previous meeting with Macron in France earlier this year, during which he expressed Japan’s intention to launch joint military drills with the European nation.

“As unilateral attempts to change by force the status quo in the East and South China Sea intensify and the security environment becomes increasingly tense, we wish to continue to cooperate with France,” Kishida said at the time.

Japan has signed reciprocal access agreements (RAA) with Australia and the United Kingdom, which will create frameworks to facilitate military cooperation, such as making the entry of foreign personnel and equipment easier for the visiting force.

The French government had also expressed hopes to establish RAAs with Japan to enhance military cooperation and exchanges.

“I also hope that we will be able to pursue the bilateral roadmap defined together, which has now been finalized, which will allow us to make our bilateral cooperation even stronger for the years to come,” Macron said ahead of talks with Kishida.

Japan approved three key defense documents last year, including the National Security Strategy, which refers to China as its “greatest challenge.” The country seeks to have the ability to counterattack, a move widely seen as a departure from its post-war constitution.

The Japanese government said it would also stockpile spare parts and other munitions, expand transport capacity, and develop cyber warfare capabilities.

The sweeping, five-year plan, once unthinkable in pacifist Japan, will make the country the world’s third-biggest military spender after the United States and China, based on current budgets.

Kishida’s government is concerned that Russia has set a precedent to encourage the Chinese regime to attack Taiwan, threatening nearby Japanese islands, disrupting supplies of advanced semiconductors, and putting a potential stranglehold on sea lanes supplying Middle East oil.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi previously conveyed to Beijing his concerns over “China’s intensification of military activities around Japan”—particularly near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands that the Chinese regime also claims as its own—and China’s cooperation with Russia.

Alexander Zhang, PA Media, and Reuters contributed to this report.