Japan and France move ever closer in nuclear partnership

The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and the President of France, Francois Hollande, have reached a historic agreement to deepen cooperation on nuclear reactor exports. Both leaders are seeking to market their respective nation’s technical nous to revive their domestic economies.  Abe told reporters gathered at the Imperial Palace that “In this field Japan and France are the strongest partners in the world.”  Indeed, only last month, Abe and his Turkish counterpart President Erdogan signed a $22 billion agreement for the building of Turkey’s second nuclear plant by a partnership between Japan’s Mitsubishi and France’s Areva SA.

In technological terms, the agreement is particularly momentous. When one reads the memorandum, it becomes apparent that both nations seek to champion the use of the new 1,100- megawatt “Atmea” reactor developed collaboratively between Mitsubishi and Areva. The Atema is viewed by market analysts as part of a new vanguard of nuclear reactors. Nonetheless, it is not yet fully operational after an initial project in France was cancelled. Hollande is on a three-day visit to Tokyo accompanied by several cabinet ministers and more than 30 executives, including the head of France’s nuclear energy giant Areva, Luc Oursel.

The two leaders pledged a united front in fighting against proliferation of nuclear technology for non-peaceful means and in combating terrorism. Noting that 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hollande called on North Korea and Iran to abide by their international commitments on nuclear issues.” We must all work together to prevent nuclear non-proliferation,” he said in an address later to Japan’s parliament. Hollande praised Abe, meanwhile, for his efforts to end a long spell of deflation and revive Japan’s stagnant economy. “This is good news for us,” he said. “If Japan succeeds, then France and Europe as a whole will benefit. “We have been in an unending crisis for far too long,” he said. “First of all, we need to create a climate of confidence.

France’s annual exports to Japan total around 7.5 billion euros ($9.8 billion), while its imports are just over 9 billion euros. Both rank 11th as respective trade partners. Hollande said France was determined to pursue much closer economic ties between Asia and Europe.

Yet cooperation is not confined to the realm of nuclear energy. Japan has agreed to hold official talks on joint weapons development with France. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on June 2 met with his French counterpart on the side-lines of the Asia Security Summit . French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian showed a strong interest in Japanese weapons-related technology, and proposed that the two nations jointly develop military weapons and equipment. Onodera and Le Drian agreed that Japan and France will begin talks aimed at hammering out an agreement to carry out joint arms development, beginning with the bilateral summit scheduled for June 7 in Tokyo. “I think there is no difference with France in our thinking on this,” Onodera told reporters after the meeting with Le Drian, showing his support for joint arms development efforts.

Sources include: Japan Times, BBC News and Reuters

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