France and Japan pledge ‘active’ Indo-Pacific collaboration

France and Japan on Saturday pledged to “actively” collaborate in an Indo-Pacific partnership to work for progress on issues including security and climate change.

The commitment came in a joint statement after a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on the sidelines of the Olympic opening ceremony.

Both countries welcomed progress made on a 2019 Franco-Japanese cooperation agreement and pledged to “actively continue to work together … on priority areas such as maritime security, climate change, environment and biodiversity.” 

Their statement comes amid European efforts to ramp up a diplomatic and military presence in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s growing influence in the region.

Japan welcomed French plans to build on regional cooperation when it takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU during the first half of next year, including by boosting the EU’s efforts to “reinforce its strategic orientation, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific in order to contribute to security, stability and sustainable development in the region.”

Following his trip to Japan, Macron was scheduled to visit French island territories in the Pacific.

The leaders also pledged further funding and support for the global vaccines platform COVAX. Macron praised the cooperation between the two countries during the pandemic.

“Our partnership is exceptional in the Indo-Pacific. At a time when we are all fighting the virus, when we are engaging in recovery, this partnership is a strength,” he said.

Both countries agreed climate change would be among their top diplomatic priorities and that they would work to ensure that the bounce-back from the coronavirus pandemic was “green, inclusive and sustainable.” They pledged to “promote the alignment of public and private financing to the 2030 agenda and the Paris Accords.”

Their statement also raised the issue of parental rights where Japan has drawn criticism for refusing joint custody of children in divorce and separation cases. The issue has hit headlines in France because a French father has been on hunger strike outside the Olympic stadium in Tokyo in an effort to gain access to his children who, he says, were abducted by their Japanese mother.

The leaders said both countries would work to “reinforce dialogue in the superior interest of children.” The issue has also drawn attention from the European Parliament.

With Paris set to host the next summer Olympics in 2024, Macron was one of just three EU heads of state or government to attend the Tokyo opening, along with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg. Macron also joined U.S. first lady Jill Biden to watch a women’s 3-on-3 basketball game between France and the United States. France lost 17-10.

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