Japan and France are to work on the joint development of military hardware, the two countries' leaders said, as Tokyo looks to bolster alliances at a time of rising tensions in East Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Tokyo and Paris had agreed to work together on promoting stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
"We agreed that Japan and France, which share common values, interests and responsibility will enhance our special partnership," Abe said yesterday, alongside French President Francois Hollande.
"We agreed on dialogue between foreign and defence officials and agreed on joint development of military equipment and control of exports."
Japan has expressed concern over French exports to China of equipment that potentially might have military uses, 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 Hollande visited weeks ago, the French president urged both to pursue dialogue in resolving their disagreement and above all to observe international law.
Tokyo has embarked on something of a global charm offensive in recent months, hoping to elicit public declarations of support in its row with China, but most countries appear wary of upsetting Beijing.
The two sides also agreed to boost nuclear co-operation to secure a larger share of global atomic energy markets. The agreement follows a US$22 billion deal struck in May between Japanese and French nuclear giants to build Turkey's second nuclear power plant.
Both agreements have the strong support of Abe, who has been touting Japan's nuclear safety standards on trips overseas, even as the wrecked nuclear plant in Fukushima has suffered a spate of radioactive leaks and remains in a precarious state.
Hollande is on a three-day visit to Tokyo accompanied by several cabinet ministers and more than 30 executives, including the head of France's nuclear energy giant Areva, Luc Oursel.
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 proliferation," he said in an address later to Japan's parliament.
In comments that appeared to be a nod to austerity-weary Europeans, among which France counts itself, Hollande heaped praise on Abe's prescription for economic revival in Japan - dubbed "Abenomics" - which involves ultra-loose monetary policy and generous government spending.