Japan signs arms deal with France as part of effort to expand international military role

TOKYO – Japan and France are set to sign an arms transfer deal in talks between the nations’ ministers Friday as Japan seeks to play a greater military role internationally.

In the talks on diplomacy and national security, the two countries’ foreign and defence ministers are expected to sign an agreement aimed at starting talks on exchanges of defence equipment, services and technology, according to Japanese officials from the related ministries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is preparing to make legal changes to accommodate plans to bolster Japan’s defence role, allowing it to defend a foreign country under attack amid China’s growing military presence in the region.

Japan and France were also expected to agree to step up their broader military co-operation and anti-terrorism effort.

Japan has signed similar arms equipment and technology transfer agreements with the U.S. and Australia, and is also in talks with Britain and Canada.

Japanese officials have said that Japan is seeking to start discussing a possible joint research and development in unmanned systems.

Defence Minister Gen Nakatani and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida represented Japan for talks with their French counterparts Jean-Yves Le Drian and Laurent Fabius.

Japan last year revised its defence guidelines to bolster its military role and also eased its self-imposed ban on arms equipment and technology transfer.