French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Friday to deepen cooperation on developing and exporting nuclear power plant technologies, and to strengthen security ties.
In a joint statement following their summit in Tokyo, the two leaders agreed to arrange talks between their foreign and defense ministers, commonly known as two-plus-two talks, to discuss joint development of defense equipment as well as exporting such items overseas.
Through such talks, Japan aims to stop France from exporting dual-use items to China that could improve the Chinese military’s capabilities.
A French naval contractor sold ship-based helicopter landing systems to China, triggering concern in Japan that it will raise the potency of Chinese surveillance ships deployed around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
France will be the fourth country for Japan to establish a framework of two-plus-two talks, after the United States, Australia and Russia.
During a joint news conference, Abe stressed that the proposed cooperation in nuclear power plant technologies is to enhance “safety standards” throughout the world, as Japan and France are highly skilled in this area.
“In that sense, I’m confident that Japan and France are the world’s best partners,” Abe said.
The two leaders agreed to cooperate on starting “the safe and stable operation” of the fuel reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which was initially due to be completed in 1997 but has been delayed by technical problems.
They also agreed to promote joint development of a next-generation nuclear reactor as well as to support private-sector efforts to export nuclear power technologies to emerging countries.
In early May, a Japanese-French consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and France’s Areva SA won the exclusive negotiating right for building Turkey’s second nuclear plant, and both governments hope to reach similar deals elsewhere.
Cooperation in high-tech fields such as robotics and smart grids were also stipulated in the joint statement.
The European Union has maintained an arms embargo on China introduced in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. France argues that the helicopter landing equipment is not subject to the ban.
Asked about exports of dual-use items to China, Holland said, “I want to say that those (export items) are not for a military use,” adding that France is abiding by the rules.
The two countries agreed to promote ongoing negotiations for a Japan-EU free-trade agreement so that the deal will be reached soon.
Hollande’s three-day trip to Japan is the first by a French president in 17 years. The last to visit as a state guest was Jacques Chirac. Hollande is scheduled to leave Tokyo on Saturday.