By Rahul Kumar
New Delhi, Jan 17: France and Japan--the two regional powers in Asia and Europe, plan to hold virtual ministerial security talks in mid-January to discuss rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific over North Korea's missile race and China's territorial disputes.
Japanese news agency Kyodo quoted Japanese government sources as saying that the two nations will also release documents after talks between the foreign and defence ministers--Yoshimasa Hayashi and Nobuo Kishi with their French counterparts Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly respectively.
In the past many months, the North Korean regime has steadfastly carried on with testing of advanced missiles and building nuclear weapons, upsetting Tokyo. China too has upped the pressure on Japan, and in the region, through a show of force by sending its naval vessels close to territories held by Japan and other south-east Asian nations nations.
Reporting on the developments in Tokyo, Kyodo said: 'The two countries are likely to discuss ways to boost response capability against military threats in the Indo-Pacific, especially after North Korea on Friday carried out what became the third launch of apparent ballistic missiles in 10 days'.
The two countries will discuss a response to China's territorial and maritime threats, assert their support to a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) and strengthen cooperation in defence matters.
Besides China's assertion in the East and the South China Sea, which has rattled Japan and its neighbours, many American allies have been left uncomfortable after the signing of the trilateral AUKUS pact between the US, the UK and Australia which seeks to arm Canberra with nuclear submarines. France has been feeling left out in the cold as Australia cancelled a lucrative submarine deal with Paris.
In the aftermath of the AUKUS deal, France not only shared its bitterness with the US and Australia but actively began to build up its own relations with countries like Japan and India. France and India have been strengthening defence cooperation as New Delhi too faces the heat from China on its northern and eastern borders.
Experts say, Paris has hardened its stance against China because of the 'wolf warrior attacks', undiplomatic remarks about the French government as well as Beijing's overall hostile demeanor. Public opinion in France too is largely unfavourable against the communist nation even as friction has crept in EU-China relations.
Japan also is traversing a similar territory regarding China.
Even though Japan is linked to the US through the four-member Quad that has India, Australia, Japan and the US, Tokyo is nevertheless strengthening its relations with other powers.
Japan and India are cooperating in Asia to balance Chinese interests in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka through development assistance and economic cooperation.
Japan and Australia recently signed a defence cooperation pact--Reciprocal Access Agreement, which relates to the transportation of weapons and supplies. France too wants to sign a similar agreement with Japan.
With discomfort due to North Korean weapon-development programme and China's military assertion in the region, Japan has been proactively drawing the attention of the US and European nations over the likelihood of a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan.
In recent months, naval vessels from Germany, the UK and France have made port calls and held maritime exercises with the Japanese Navy in a counter-response to the Chinese.
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