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Japan, Britain PMs agree to accelerate maritime defense cooperation to counter China

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, hold a press conference in 10 Downing Street, London after a bilateral meeting, on Jan. 10, 2019. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed in a recent summit in London to accelerate maritime defense cooperation between their nations in an apparent bid to counter China's maritime advancement.

At a joint news conference on Jan. 10 local time, Abe said that he and May agreed that the two countries are strongly opposed to any forcible attempt to change status quo and agreed to maintain international order. May also said that the U.K. and Japan will join together in creating a common future.

The two leaders also reconfirmed a plan to hold "two-plus-two" foreign and defense ministerial talks in Tokyo this spring. Tokyo and London are poised to conduct more joint drills between the Self-Defense Forces and British Armed Forces to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The new National Defense Program Guidelines, which the Abe Cabinet approved late last year, call for strengthening cooperation with Britain, Australia, France and India. The guidelines describe more specific measures for cooperation than the previous 2013 guidelines.

"The administration of President Donald Trump could decrease U.S. involvement in East Asia," said an individual linked to the Japanese government, underscoring the importance of the new guidelines. "It'll be increasingly important for Japan to cooperate with its allies."

Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono visited India, France and other countries from Jan. 7 to 12, and agreed with his counterparts there to also cooperate in actualizing defense policies.

With these developments, the Abe government is hoping to establish a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy with Japan's allies.

(Japanese original by Naoki Oita and Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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