Jan 12, 2019 17:24 UTC
  • France, Japan agree to deepen military ties to counter China

France and Japan have agreed to step up military cooperation in order to counter what they consider China’s "unilateral actions" in the East and South China seas.

The foreign and defense ministers of two countries made the announcement on Friday as they wrapped up security talks known as "two-plus-two" in the French northwest coastal city of Brest.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly, along with their counterparts Taro Kono  and Takeshi Iwaya, said in a joint statement that the cooperation was aimed at both countering China’s assertiveness in the East and South China seas.  

"We strongly oppose unilateral actions heightening tension" in the disputed waters, read a joint statement by the four ministers, apparently referring to a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo in the East China Sea.

Japan and China, two of the world’s largest economies, had for several years been locked in a territorial row over a small group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku by the Japanese and the Diaoyu by the Chinese. They are controlled by Japan, but claimed by Beijing.

Last year, former Japanese defense chief Itsunori Onodera, claimed that China was “unilaterally escalating its military activities in the sea and aviation spaces around our country.” 

China maintains that its sovereignty over the islands is indisputable.

During the Friday meeting, France agreed to send a frigate and a reconnaissance aircraft to join surveillance efforts of the Korean Peninsula.

Tokyo also asked Paris to send its aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle — which is expected to begin a journey to Singapore soon — to Japan.

This means that the French warship would likely pass through the South China Sea, where Japanese military forces have been carrying out joint military practices with the United States to protect what they regard as “freedom of navigation” in the sea.