TOKYO: Japan and France are to work on the joint development of military hardware, the two countries’ leaders said on Thursday, as Tokyo looks to bolster alliances at a time of rising tensions in East Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that Tokyo and Paris had agreed to work together on promoting stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We agreed that Japan and France, which share common values, interests and responsibility will enhance our special partnership,” Abe told reporters at a joint press conference with visiting French President Francois Hollande.
“We agreed on dialogue between foreign and defense officials and agreed on joint development of military equipment and control of exports.”
Japan is locked in a corrosive squabble with China over the ownership of a small group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. It says a rising Beijing is throwing its weight around as its military might grows.
Earlier this year, Tokyo voiced unease at the sale by a French firm of helicopter landing equipment to China, saying it might be used by Beijing to strengthen its presence around the disputed islands.
Tokyo has embarked on something of a global charm offensive in recent months, hoping to elicit public declarations of support in its row with China, but most countries appear wary of upsetting Beijing.
“That Japan and France, which share basic values of freedom and stability which are common values, play a leading role is expected by the [rest of]the world,” Abe said.
The main focus of Hollande’s three-day trip is on trade, with specific reference to both countries’ nuclear industries.
The visit is expected to bring the signing of agreements in the atomic sector, with the pro-nuclear Abe saying he will order the re-start of more of Japan’s idled nuclear reactors once their safety is assured, despite public unease in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Before the catastrophe, Japan used to generate around 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. It now only has two reactors up and running, accounting for just a fraction of the nation’s energy mix.
France, by comparison, relies on nuclear power to meet around 75 percent of its electricity needs, according to the US-based Nuclear Energy Institute.
Hollande is accompanied by six ministers as well as some 40 chief executives, including
the head of French nuclear giant Areva.
In comments that appeared to be a nod to austerity-weary Europeans, among which
France counts itself, Hollande heaped praise on Abe’s policy prescription for economic revival in Japan—dubbed “Abenomics”—which involves ultra-loose monetary policy and generous government spending.
“The Japanese government has taken a number of measures since Mr. Abe’s team came to power,” he told reporters. “It is not for me to judge them; they are a matter for Japan.
“But the priority given to growth and the fight against deflation, along with the emphasis on competitiveness for business . . . is good news for Europe, because in Europe we also have to give priority to growth,” Hollande added.
France is leading a growing charge in Europe against Germany’s insistence on fiscal discipline.
Hollande is expected to address lawmakers in Japan’s parliament later Friday.