Interviews & Articles

(January 6, 2017)

“Japan considers France to be an exceptional partner in the area of defense”

January 6, 2017

As the Foreign Minister of Japan, I selected Europe for my first overseas trip in 2017 because I believe it is important for Japan to work closely with our European friends, with whom Japan shares fundamental values, especially amid growing protectionism and inward-looking sentiment in the international community. Japan and Europe should jointly support the free and open global order. It is particularly important to keep the flag of free trade waving high, including through the ongoing robust promotion of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations and to actively collaborate in ensuring the rule of law.

I also hope to share with our European friends the vision of securing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” that extends from the Pacific Ocean, through the Indian Ocean, to East Africa. Japan aims to work with Europe including France to enhance the connectivity between the fast-growing Asian region and the Middle East and Africa with abundant potential, as well as to ensure the rule of law on the sea, thereby securing peace and stability in the region.

I hope to highlight the fact that France, much like Japan, has strategic and economic interests in the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. France has historically deep ties to Africa and the Indochina Peninsula, and maintains a permanent military presence in New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. Japan sees extensive possibilities in further cooperation between Japan and France in security and defense areas, including protection of sea lane safety, with the Indo-Pacific region in mind.

Specific examples include: the collaboration in assisting Asian and African countries in such areas as maritime security and counter-terrorism; joint exercises; closer cooperation on defense equipment and technology based on the Agreement concerning Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology which entered into force in December, 2016; and cooperation in the areas of space and cyber security. Japan intends to actively promote bilateral cooperation with France in these areas.

At today’s Third Japan-France Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting (2+2 Meeting), Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and I, together with my colleague Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, and Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense of France, intend to thoroughly discuss the direction and vision of the Japan-France cooperation. I also hope to exchange views on regional situations in various parts of the world and thus share recognition with the French side. In the Asia-Pacific region in particular, elements such as nuclear and missile developments by North Korea and unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and South China Sea are exacerbating the security environment. In light of this, Japan looks forward to France’s expanded presence in the region.

An exceptional partnership connects Japan with France. With the conviction that we can advance cooperation between our countries to a new stage by promoting security and defense cooperation from a strategic perspective, I intend to continue to work this year toward strengthening relations between Japan and France, as well as between Japan and Europe.

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