• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron agreed Friday in their first bilateral summit to push ahead with cooperation in trade and defense.

Meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Seven gathering in Taormina, Italy, Abe and Macron affirmed their commitment to reaching a broad agreement as soon as possible in trade negotiations between Japan and the European Union, according to a senior Japanese official who sat in on the talks.

They also agreed to push forward bilateral cooperation on defense, the official said.

At a ministerial security meeting in January, Japan and France began discussions on an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, a pact for sharing defense supplies.

In the roughly 20-minute meeting, Abe told Macron he was “encouraged as a supporter of a strong Europe” by the former economy minister’s victory earlier this month, in which he defeated far-right euroskeptic Marine Le Pen.

The pair also agreed to support bilateral cooperation in nuclear power and initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region, the official said.

France counts inhabited and uninhabited islands among its territories in both the Indian and Pacific oceans, while the Abe administration is pursuing a free and open Indo-Pacific region in light of its emphasis on maritime security.

Abe explained Japan’s stance on regional issues, including North Korea, and won Macron’s full support, the official said.

Macron also accepted an invitation to visit Japan as soon as possible.

Ahead of the summit with Macron, Abe held talks with U.S. President Donald Trump and European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The three leaders agreed on the importance of free trade and quickly finalizing the Japan-EU trade talks.

Abe asked Juncker and Tusk to ensure transparency and predictability in the negotiations involving Britain’s departure from the European Union, and they responded that they will maintain as much transparency as possible, the Japanese official said.

Later in the day, Abe met with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau. They welcomed a recent broad agreement on a defense supply pact and agreed to aim to sign the deal soon. The two countries have been negotiating the agreement since a meeting of senior defense officials in 2011. Negotiators essentially clinched an agreement at a recent working-level meeting, the Foreign Ministry said.

The leaders also discussed coordination in stepping up pressure on North Korea, which continues to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of international sanctions.

Trudeau told Abe that Canada will cooperate with that effort at the United Nations and at other stages, a Japanese official said.

During the G-7 summit, Abe on Saturday marked 1,980 days as prime minister, matching Junichiro Koizumi for the third-longest stint in the postwar era.

The figure combines Abe’s brief time in power from 2006 to 2007 — which ended when he resigned over health problems — with his second term dating from December 2012.

His tenure as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was set to end in September next year, but the party recently extended its term limit for party leaders, allowing him to potentially serve a third straight three-year term until September 2021 if he wins another party leadership contest.

Abe would become the country’s longest-serving prime minister if he is still in the role in November 2019, surpassing Taro Katsura, who was prime minister for 2,886 days in the early 20th century.

The longest-serving prime minister in postwar Japan is Eisaku Sato, who spent 2,798 days in office between 1964 and 1972. Shigeru Yoshida is second with 2,616 days in office, holding power first for around a year from May 1946 and then between 1948 and 1954. Koizumi served between 2001 and 2006.

Prime ministers are typically the leaders of their parties. The law puts no limit on how long they can serve.

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