National / Politics

Japan and France to unveil road map for cooperation amid China's rise

Kyodo

Japan and France are planning to unveil a five-year road map in late June that deepens cooperation in areas ranging from maritime security to infrastructure assistance amid China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, government sources said Monday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to announce the road map through 2023 when they meet in Tokyo during the French leader’s official visit to Japan from June 26, the sources said. Macron is scheduled to attend the two-day Group of 20 summit in Osaka, which starts June 28.

Under the road map, Japan and France will deepen defense cooperation, assist developing nations in improving infrastructure and jointly cope with marine plastic waste.

The two countries are also looking at cooperation in space and cyberspace — areas seen as new frontiers in warfare and defense — details of which may be included in the document, according to the sources.

Japan views France as an important partner in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Tokyo is seeking to assist countries in building infrastructure to help them achieve economic growth and ensure debt sustainability.

France, for its part, has island territories in the Pacific such as New Caledonia and is cautious about Beijing’s massive “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative.

Some developing nations are struggling with excessive debt burdens after borrowing heavily from China under the plan, critics say, which is seen as increasing the country’s economic influence.

Tokyo and Paris are making arrangements to hold the first comprehensive maritime dialogue around this summer in France to tackle global challenges based on the road map, the sources said.

The governments have been working to finalize the five-year plan, which follows a similar one for 2013 through 2018, ahead of Macron’s upcoming visit.

In recent years, Japan and France have strengthened security cooperation. An agreement to share defense and other supplies between the Self-Defense Forces and French armed forces will become effective this month.

“We hope that we will be able to open a new horizon for our bilateral relations as special partners through President Macron’s first visit since assuming his post,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a news conference Tuesday.

Emperor Naruhito is scheduled to meet with Macron and host a lunch during the president’s stay in Tokyo, the government said.