10 Juin 2013
June 10, 2013
Following bilateral talks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande released a joint statement reaffirming cooperation in nuclear power technology and security, as well as a five-year action plan.
In the field of security, the two leaders agreed on the creation of a forum to deliberate export controls of civilian items that have military applications, joint development of defense equipment, and arranging for discussions between defense and foreign ministers, known as two-plus-two talks.
Setting up a forum to discuss export management should be recognized as a forward-looking move.
Since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the EU has prohibited the sale of weapons to China. What constitutes weapons, however, has been left up to the discretion of each member country.
Last year, a French defense company sold a state-of-the-art helicopter landing device to China. Japan has voiced fears to the French government that the equipment could be used by Chinese patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands, thereby improving China's performance around the disputed islands.
Hollande has consistently claimed that the sale of the copter device was not for military purposes, and for now, Japan and France have failed to see eye to eye on the issue. However, the safety of the East China and South China seas are an important matter for France, as well as to Japan, as they constitute trade routes to East Asia. Let's hope that further discussions on security, including the two-plus-two talks, can further France's understanding of the security environment, and lead to more stringent controls on exports to China.
During their talks, Abe and Hollande also reached an agreement to strengthen cooperation on nuclear technology exports, the promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle, and reactor decommissioning and decontamination following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
France and Japan are the world's second and third largest nuclear powers, respectively, after the U.S. The two leaders proudly declared that by bringing their nuclear power businesses together, they could raise the safety standards of nuclear technology worldwide.
We welcome bilateral cooperation on decommissioning reactors and decontamination. But working together to export nuclear reactors and promote the nuclear fuel cycle is another thing.The Fukushima nuclear disaster has yet to be brought under control, and we have not yet come to fully understand what caused it.
It is under such circumstances that Abe has outlined infrastructure export, including nuclear technology, as a pillar of the country's growth strategy. Following his tour of the Middle East in April and May, he is set to visit Eastern Europe in mid-June to market Japanese nuclear technology.
In Saudi Arabia, Abe claimed, "We can provide the world's safest nuclear technology." At a press conference following his meeting with Hollande, he declared, "Japan will meet (global) expectations for its nuclear technology to improve global safety standards. To do that, I am convinced that Japan and France are the world's best partners."
What is the basis for Abe's declaration that Japan's nuclear technology is "the world's safest?" He has failed to provide the Japanese people with a convincing explanation.