(Bloomberg) -- The Japanese and French governments have agreed to “actively” maintain defense cooperation to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to a joint statement Saturday following a summit meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Emmanuel Macron.

Japan welcomed France’s intention, as presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2022, to reinforce the group’s strategic policy, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific. The two sides also reaffirmed the importance of Southeast Asian nations’ role in the region.

Western nations are seeking to rebalance their relationship with China, which is amassing greater economic and military might and showing a new willingness to resist foreign criticism of its human rights practices.

Earlier this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held talks with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts that touched on preserving peace in the Taiwan Strait. That prompted China to accuse the U.S. and Japan of forging confrontational blocs.

White House officials have been discussing proposals for a digital trade agreement covering Indo-Pacific economies as the administration seeks ways to check China’s influence in the region, people familiar with the plans told Bloomberg News earlier this month.

In Saturday’s statement, Japan and France welcomed the Tokyo Olympics, which opened Friday night, as a symbol of global unity in overcoming the coronavirus.

Story Link: Japan, France to Boost Defense Cooperation Over Indo-Pacific

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