Japan, EU leaders agree to cooperate for free, open Indo-Pacific

Nov 30 , 2021. 13 hours ago – 20:45 KYODO NEWS

Combined photo shows Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and European Council President Charles Michel. (Getty/Kyodo)

TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and European Council President Charles Michel agreed in phone talks Monday to work together on efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

During the roughly 20-minute conversation, the two exchanged views on China and North Korea, and affirmed cooperation over global issues including climate change, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Michel had planned to visit Tokyo for a meeting with Kishida on Monday but was forced to cancel the trip due to surging COVID-19 infections.

Kishida said it was unfortunate that he could not speak to Michel in person and they should meet for more substantial talks at a convenient time for both sides, the ministry said.

Japan has been seeking to bolster ties with the European Union to counter China’s increasing military and economic clout, amid growing concern over what Tokyo views as unilateral attempts to change the status quo in regional waters.

Kishida welcomed the bloc’s adoption of a new Indo-Pacific strategy in September, which mentions stepping up trade and investment with Taiwan.

China considers the democratically self-governed island as a rogue province and has been ramping up pressure, including by sending military planes into its air defense identification zone.

Kishida and Michel also agreed to strengthen economic cooperation in the areas of digital and green technology, cybersecurity and supply chain stability in line with a Japan-EU economic partnership agreement that took effect in 2019, the ministry said.

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