TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Monday that both countries would promote bilateral cooperation on both the security and economic fronts.

By beefing up its relations with Germany, a core member of the European Union, Japan aims to share its wariness over China, which is increasing its sphere of influence.

At a joint press conference held after her talks with Abe, Merkel made clear her support for realizing a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” an initiative being advocated by the Abe administration. She said that the initiative is committed to promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and that her country would also support Japan to that end. Then she added that this initiative is also related to China’s territorial ambitions.

Germany is said to have attached importance to its relations with China in recent years. This trip marked Merkel’s fifth visit to Japan. On previous trips, China was often also included in her itinerary, but this time she only visited Japan. A government official explained that “Germany aims to show, both at home and abroad, that the country is maintaining an appropriate distance from China.”

During the talks, Abe and Merkel confirmed that the two countries will boost joint research on autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. A delegation of German business leaders, including Joe Kaeser, the chief executive officer of Siemens AG, accompanied Merkel during her visit, demonstrating Germany’s strong interest in cooperating with Japan.

Lying behind this is the rise of Chinese enterprises in advanced technology, such as information technology. There are concerns about China increasing its market dominance in the IT sector, through excessive protection of its own industries, and also over technology leakage and adverse impacts on security, for instance.

Following their summit talks on Monday, Abe and Merkel attended a meeting of business leaders from both countries. Saying with emphasis that the era of “5G,” the next-generation mobile network technology, has come, Merkel raised the question of what is needed to prevent the Chinese government from eventually collecting and harnessing vast amounts of data.

Merkel thus expressed her hope for cooperation between both the Japanese and German governments and private companies of both countries.

By News Desk