Japan, France vow more security cooperation in Asia-Pacific

Japanese Prime Minister  Fumio Kishida and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday pledged more security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific as Kishida made his first visit to France since taking office.

Japan holds the 2023 presidency of the Group of Seven industrialised countries, and Kishida on Monday kicked off a tour of fellow bloc members France, Italy, Britain, Canada and the United States.

At a joint press statement with Macron on Monday evening, the Japanese premier said he was looking forward to more cooperation with France in the Asia-Pacific region.

"France is a leading partner for the realisation of a free and open Indo-Pacific," said Kishida, who became premier in October 2021.

"As unilateral attempts to change by force the status quo in the East and South China Sea intensify and the security environment becomes increasingly tense, we wish to continue to cooperate with France," he said, alluding to joint military drills.

Japan's government approved a major defence policy overhaul last month, including a significant spending hike, as it warned China posed the "greatest strategic challenge ever" to its security.

Macron said France and Japan would continue their "joint actions in the Indo-Pacific".

"Japan can count on our unfailing support in the face of Pyongyang's violation of international law," he added.

Kishida also said the G7 would continue to back Ukraine after Russian invaded its pro-Western neighbour last year.

"The G7, faced with the Russian aggression, will rally to continue and reinforce strict sanctions against Russia and keep up strong support for Ukraine," he said.

Both leaders earlier in the evening visited the French capital's 12th-century Notre-Dame cathedral under restoration after a 2019 fire.

Experts are busy repairing the Gothic cathedral after the blaze toppled its 19th-century spire and ravaged part of its roof.

Restorers are set to rebuild the base of the steeple this spring, and the cathedral is eventually to re-open to the public at the end of next year.

Kishida is to meet US President Joe Biden on Friday.

Beyond Ukraine, the Japanese premier said before leaving Japan that he also expected G7 allies to display "solidarity with the rest of the world" on issues such as climate change and the food and energy crises.

Kishida will host the G7 leaders summit in Hiroshima in May.

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