Scholtz visits Japan to strengthen economic and defense ties

TOKYO – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held the first round of government consultations in Tokyo on Saturday on how they aim to do so Strengthening economic and defense ties in a global landscape dominated by China’s growing influence and the war in Ukraine.

Scholz brought six of his ministers to talks with Japanese counterparts to deepen economic and national security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as other global issues, including China’s assertiveness in asserting its maritime territorial claims and its closer ties to China Russia.

“I believe that the government consultation will be a stepping stone to make Japan-Germany cooperation even closer,” Kishida said in his opening speech at the meeting. Kishida said the talks will focus on economic security, the Indo-Pacific region, Russia’s war on Ukraine and other common concerns.

Germany has a similar framework for “government consultations” with several countries. Six of the 17 members of Scholtz’s cabinet are traveling with him, including economics, finance, foreign, interior, transport and defense ministers.

The two defense ministers met separately and confirmed this Continued engagement of the Bundeswehr in the Indo-Pacific region and greater military cooperation between the two countries.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and his German counterpart Boris Pistorius agreed to closely coordinate future regional Bundeswehr operations and to intensify joint exercises. They also agreed to seek a legal framework to facilitate increased joint defense activities and cooperation on defense equipment and technology, Japan’s defense ministry said in a statement.

Facing growing threats from China and North Korea, Japan has expanded military cooperation beyond its main ally, the United States, and has forged partnerships with Australia, Britain, European and Southeast Asian nations. Last year, Kishida’s government passed a new national security strategy deployed under Japan’s long-range cruise missile to bolster its counterattack capability, a major break with the country’s post-war principle of self-defense alone.

Scholtz visited Japan last year before going to China and made it a point to prioritize Germany’s economic ties with Tokyo over Beijing. Scholz is pushing for a diversification of Germany’s trading partners and opposes a complete decoupling from China.

Japan, along with the United States, is exploring ways to withstand China’s increasing economic influence in the region. Tokyo also wants to strengthen economic security with other democracies in areas such as supply chains and the protection of sensitive technologies, apparently in opposition to China.

But Japan, which is a key US ally and a key trading partner of China, is in a delicate situation and needs to balance its position between the two superpowers.

For Germany, China was the largest trading partner in 2021 for the sixth year in a row, as business relations flourished despite strained political relations.


Associated Press journalists Geir Moulson in Berlin, Haruka Nuga and Chisato Tanaka in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Scholtz visits Japan to strengthen economic and defense ties

Sarah Y. Kim

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