PARIS – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed Wednesday to step up their countries’ cooperation in promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific region, where China has been increasing its influence.
The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment toward the denuclearization of North Korea and early entry into force of a free trade agreement signed in July between Japan and the European Union.
“Japan and France are both oceanic nations. We would like to join hands for promotion of the free and open Indo-Pacific,” Abe told reporters in Paris, while Macron said achieving stability in the region is an important issue. France possesses territories in the Pacific, including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
Amid China’s rising international clout, Abe has been pushing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” that reflects Tokyo’s interest in boosting relations with countries that share values such as democracy and the rule of law.
Abe and Macron were also united against protectionism in light of the escalating trade tensions between the United States and China, Japanese officials said.
The prime minister flew to Paris from Madrid earlier Wednesday as part of his European tour that will take him to Brussels for the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting that is scheduled to end Friday.
Abe is on his first trip to France since Macron took office in May 2017. He had planned to visit Paris in July to attend the opening ceremony of Japonismes 2018, a Japan-themed cultural event, but canceled the trip to oversee the government’s response to the torrential rains that hit western Japan.