Japan and France agreed Thursday to strengthen the countries' defense partnership in response to China's military expansion, even as Paris reportedly opposes NATO's plan to open an office in Tokyo.

The meeting between Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna came after the Financial Times reported earlier this month that President Emmanuel Macron had objected to what would be NATO's first office in Asia.

The Japanese government said Hayashi and Colonna reaffirmed joint cooperation in the face of China's growing military clout, but they did not touch on the proposal to set up a NATO office in Tokyo to address security threats in Asia.

France, a NATO member, apparently worries the office could fuel tensions between China and the trans-Atlantic alliance, which has been beefing up security cooperation with Japan recently.

Macron made waves in April after saying in a media interview that Europe should not be a follower of either the United States or China, while urging NATO not to expand its reach beyond the North Atlantic.

Hayashi and Colonna, meanwhile, pledged to bolster bilateral defense cooperation by conducting activities such as joint exercises between the Self-Defense Forces and the French military, the Japanese government said.

The foreign ministers also agreed that Japan and France will establish a working group to deal with economic security issues.

Regarding Russia's 16-month war in Ukraine, Hayashi and Colonna confirmed Tokyo and Paris will maintain tough sanctions on Moscow.

The bilateral meeting was held on the sidelines of an international conference on financial measures to achieve the U.N. sustainable development goals by 2030.

Hayashi is on a five-day trip to Europe through Saturday. On Wednesday, he attended the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London.