TOKYO — Japan and France agreed Wednesday to step up cooperation in the field of maritime security, issuing a five-year road map for their partnership also dealing with issues ranging from global trade to climate change.
The road map was issued following a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron, who is on his first visit to Japan since taking office two years ago.
“It is an important challenge for Japan and France to make the vast waters spanning from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific free and open as well as a foundation for the peace and prosperity of the region and the world,” Abe told a news conference with Macron following their talks at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.
Tokyo and Paris are seeking to deepen maritime security and assist developing nations in improving infrastructure, amid China’s growing influence beyond Asia.
Macron said the two counties will hold the first comprehensive maritime dialogue in September.
Under the road map through 2023, Japan and France will beef up “strategic cooperation” between the Self-Defense Forces and the French armed forces, while also carrying out numerous other projects including those related to space, cyberspace and the environment.
Abe and Macron reaffirmed their cooperation toward the success of the two-day summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Osaka from Friday, during which topics ranging from marine plastic waste to reform of the World Trade Organization are set to be on the agenda. Macron will chair the summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in August.
Asked about the situation surrounding the Strait of Hormuz, Abe stressed the importance of securing freedom of navigation in the strategically important sea lane, functioning as a transport “node” connecting Europe and Asia.
“I and President Macron shared concerns about the rising tensions in the Middle East region and confirmed close collaboration to ease the tensions and stabilize the situation,” the prime minister said.
Earlier this month, two tankers, including a Japanese-operated one, were attacked near the strait, which the United States has blamed on Iran. Tehran has denied involvement.
French government officials had said Macron would take up the issue of the partnership between Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. during his meeting with Abe. But a senior Japanese government official who attended the talks said the issue was not discussed.
In the news conference, Macron said the strength of the 20-year-old alliance between Renault and Nissan “will not falter” and that as a Renault shareholder the French government hopes the partnership will remain long term.
“The alliance is important in winning various competitions in the auto industry, such as (in the area of) self-driving vehicles,” Macron said. “The role of the French state is to protect French firms and their employees.”
The auto alliance has become complicated following the downfall of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn last year over alleged financial misconduct.
The French government, the top shareholder in Renault, has sought to strengthen the alliance between the French and Japanese automakers.
In an annual meeting on Tuesday, Nissan’s shareholders approved a program to bolster the company’s governance with newly established board committees.
Meanwhile, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said he will review the “unbalanced” capital structure of the alliance as needed as Renault has a 43.7 percent stake in Nissan, which holds a 15 percent non-voting stake in its French partner.
Ghosn is believed to have been pushing for a merger between the two automakers.
Before traveling to Osaka, Macron is scheduled to meet Thursday with Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne on May 1.