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Macron bolsters Japan ties, defends Renault-Nissan alliance on Tokyo visit

Blondet Eliot, AFP | The French president arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday ahead of a G20 summit in Osaka later this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have agreed to bolster naval defence ties following talks in Tokyo that were overshadowed by the crisis roiling the alliance between carmakers Renault and Nissan.

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Macron and Abe unveiled a five-year roadmap of cooperation on maritime security on Wednesday, focusing on the Indo-Pacific region where China has been growing increasingly assertive. They also agreed to promote cooperation in defence technology, space, and science and technology.

The French president, who is in Tokyo ahead of this week's Group of 20 summit in Osaka, told a joint news conference with Abe that he hoped tensions over the US-China trade dispute would ease during the summit.

The two leaders discussed issues to be raised at summit including nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran, with Macron saying they agreed on the need to ensure the verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of both Iran and North Korea.

Analysis: Macron's plan to extend French influence in Indo-Pacific region

"On both these topics we have a common point of view and a real will, in the two cases, to reach collective security by the non-acquisition of nuclear weapons or the total, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation," Macron said. "And we have the will to ensure the stability of these regions."

Abe said protecting the safety of the Strait of Hormuz is also crucial. During his recent visit to Tehran in hopes of de-escalating tensions between Iran and the US, a Japanese oil tanker was attacked, though all 21 crewmembers were safe.

"Securing safety of navigation at the Strait of Hormuz, which connects Europe and Asia, is extremely important for the peace and stability of international society including Japan and France," Abe said.

On the subject of the trade dispute between the US and China, Macron called for the “appeasement of tensions” and a multilateral solution.

"The solution to the problems we encounter is not in bilateral agreements, is not in bypassing international rules, is not in protectionism, but it is very clearly in the modernisation of the trade multilateral framework," he explained.

Macron reaffirms ‘solidity’ of Renault-Nissan alliance

Asked about former Nissan and Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn, who has been charged with financial misconduct, Macron said he is "attached to the principle of the presumption of innocence and to the rights of the defence".

He also said France is responsible for protecting an important company and its employees from a negative impact, and to reaffirm the "solidity" of Renault and that of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

The two carmakers have been at loggerheads since the shock arrest in November of Ghosn, who headed a three-way alliance between the pair and Japan's Mitsubishi Motors.

Macron said there was no need to change France's stake in Renault, insisting the issue had nothing to do with the crisis faced by Nissan.

"We are not going to revisit this now. It is not the subject. It is not by changing the shareholdings that Nissan will get better," said Macron.

Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, and the French state in turn holds a 15-percent stake in Renault – a contentious issue at the Japanese firm, which is sensitive to perceived French interference.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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