Japan and France plan to hold virtual ministerial security talks in mid-January focusing on China's assertive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and North Korea's nuclear and missile development, Japanese government sources said.
The defense and foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to release documents after the so-called two-plus-two talks, the first of their kind since the last session was held in January 2019, according to sources.
The two sides are likely to talk about ways to boost response capability against military threats in the Indo-Pacific, especially after North Korea launched its third launch of apparent ballistic missiles in 10 days.
Amid concerns about China's rising maritime assertiveness, the Japanese and French ministers are expected to affirm coordination in order to achieve a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and deepen defense cooperation, according to the sources.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi will be in the upcoming talks, along with their French counterparts, Florence Parly and Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Tokyo and Paris had originally planned to hold an in-person two-plus-two meeting in Japan by the end of 2021, but postponed it due to the coronaviruses epidemic, which has been fueled by the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
Japan and France have generally taken turns hosting such meetings since their first session in 2014.
Earlier this month, Japan and Australia signed a defense cooperation pact called the Reciprocal Access Agreement, which eases restrictions on the transportation of weapons and supplies for joint training and disaster relief operations.
France, which calls Japan as a special partner, has expressed its desire to sign such an agreement with Japan, as Tokyo has strengthened maritime security ties with the European nation, which has overseas territories in the Indo-Pacific region.
In response to growing assertive China and France's Jeanne d Arc training fleet in Japan, Tokyo has strengthened defense cooperation with European countries like Britain and Germany.
Japan and France have conducted joint exercises that are joined by the United States and Australia.