German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday in Tokyo, where the two leaders pledged to further strengthen the bilateral relationship as the world faces growing protectionism and the United Kingdom's potentially turbulent exit from the European Union.

"The roles Japan and Germany are playing are now getting bigger and bigger as the U.K. is heading toward the exit from the EU," Abe told Merkel at the outset of their summit meeting.

Merkel's visit to Tokyo days after the Japan-EU free trade pact took effect on Friday "sends a strong message on promotion of free trade and strengthening of the Japan-Germany economic relationship," Abe said.