Japan and France yesterday agreed to deepen their cooperation on nuclear technology and to discuss joint development of military equipment, vowing to raise the tenor of their partnership.
Visiting French President Francois Hollande and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a joint statement pledging to prevent nuclear proliferation while raising safety standards for nuclear energy.
The two sides also agreed to establish a regular dialogue between their foreign ministers and defense ministers, discussions that would include possible cooperation in developing and managing exports of defense equipment. Japan has similar arrangements with the US and Britain.
“This visit had a new ambience,” Hollande said after summit talks with Abe, pointing to closer security and political ties as evidence the two sides are taking relations to “a new level.”
Japan has expressed concern over French exports to China of equipment that might be of military use, including the sale last year of equipment used to help helicopters land on ships. Providing China with such a capability alarms Tokyo given its tensions with Beijing over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Hollande said he reiterated France’s insistence that the helicopters were not intended for military use. Asked about the strains between Japan and China, which the French president visited just weeks earlier, Hollande urged the two sides to pursue dialogue in resolving their disagreement and to above all observe international law.
Japan has been easing its restrictions on its own exports of military equipment, though it is the cosponsor of a landmark treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade, signed earlier this week by more than 65 countries, including France.
The two leaders pledged a united front in fighting against proliferation of nuclear technology for non-peaceful means and in combating terrorism.
Noting that 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hollande called on North Korea and Iran to abide by their international commitments on nuclear issues.
“We must all work together to prevent nuclear non-proliferation,” he said in an address later to Japan’s parliament.
Hollande also praised Abe for his efforts to end a long spell of deflation and revive Japan’s stagnant economy.
“This is good news for us,” he said. “If Japan succeeds, then France and Europe as a whole will benefit.”
However, the French leader was left red-faced after a slip of the tongue that saw him confuse his hosts with the Chinese.
During a press conference when Hollande, speaking in French, referred to the Algerian hostage crisis, he said he had “expressed the condolences of the French people to the Chinese people.”
He made no attempt to correct his mistake.
However, a quick-thinking female interpreter fixed the verbal gaffe as she gave her simultaneous translation, rendering the sentence as it had been intended.
However, at least one Japanese journalist with knowledge of French picked up on the error.
Hollande’s three-day state visit ends today.
Additional reporting by AFP