The Yomiuri ShimbunAs major countries that share fundamental values such as freedom and democracy, Japan and Germany must join hands to work toward stabilization of the world order.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held bilateral talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Japan. “It’s time to raise our cooperation to a higher level,” Abe told the German leader. “Both our countries represent rule-based order,” Merkel stressed.
It was Merkel’s first visit to Japan in about four years to be made for the sole purpose of holding a bilateral meeting, not to attend international talks.
Merkel has said she will retire when her term of office as German chancellor ends in 2021. However, her presence is still greatly felt in Europe, while other leaders are lackluster. Trust between the Japanese and German leaders should be nurtured further.
Germany has placed importance on relations with China, which has a vast market. However, in recent years, Germany has become more cautious about the outflow of its technologies to China following the acquisition of German companies by China.
Merkel’s visit seems to have been aimed at demonstrating the change in her country’s excessively China-leaning stance. A decision to have closer ties with Japan was also an apparent motivation for the visit, now that Germany has become more estranged from the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump.
It is important for Japan to utilize this opportunity and deepen its relations with Germany, a leader of the European Union.
Cooperate over China
In their meeting, the two leaders reached a broad agreement to conclude an “information protection accord” to share secret information, including that on terrorism and cyber-attacks. It is not insignificant that Japan will enhance cooperation with Germany on the security front, a field that has been weak compared to Japan’s ties with Britain and France.
At a joint press conference, Merkel expressed support for a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” an initiative being advocated by Japan and the United States. She said that this initiative is also related to China’s territorial ambitions. Her comments illustrate her sense of caution regarding China, whose actions include attempts to establish military footholds in the South China Sea.
The stability of the maritime order is a key foundation of economic activities. Members of the international community must cooperate to urge China to exert self-restraint.
In response to the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement coming into force this month, the two leaders also agreed to promote bilateral economic cooperation. The creation of a free trade bloc that accounts for about 30 percent of the global gross domestic product will contribute to the economic growth of both countries.
With regard to Britain’s exit from the EU, Abe said to Merkel during their bilateral talks that a “no-deal Brexit” should be averted, and the effect of the global economy must be minimized. Merkel is urged to exert her leadership within the EU on this issue.
Abe told the German leader that he intends to table such matters as the promotion of free trade and technological innovation in the agenda for discussions during the summit talks of Group of 20 major economies to be held in Osaka in June. Merkel promise to cooperate on this matter.
Japan and Germany must demonstrate leadership and promote the framework for international cooperation.