Japan, France Agree on Expanding Defense Cooperation
TOKYO, July 29 (RIA Novosti) - France and Japan will expand defense cooperation and conduct joint military exercises as part of a treaty signed in Tokyo by Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Japan is particularly interested in cooperating with France in naval security, which Tokyo sees as key to containing China's activities, Kyodo news reported Tuesday.
Moreover, at the meeting with his French homologues, the Japanese minister is expected to voice his position over the sale of Mistral warships to Russia. Onodera has already called the deal "inexpedient in light of the current international situation."
Last week, the United States once again spoke against France sticking to the terms of the Mistral contract it signed with Russia. US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters it would be "completely inappropriate" in light of recent events in Ukraine. British Prime Minister David Cameron also criticized Paris for its plans to sell Mistral ships to Russia and called the deal "unthinkable.'
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, however, said that Paris did not call into question its compliance with obligations under the Mistral helicopter carriers deal signed with Russia.
Russia and France signed a $1.6 billion deal for two Mistral-class helicopter carriers in June 2011.
Under the contract, the first ship, the Vladivostok, is to be delivered to Russia by the end of the year, while the second, the Sevastopol, is due in 2015.
The vessels, which are expected to be deployed in Russia's Pacific Fleet, are capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 70 armored vehicles and 450 soldiers each.
Russia is also planning to complete the construction of a Mistral-class carrier base in Russia's Far East port of Vladivostok by next year's fall. The base would be a complex with garrisons, service support and fueling facilities.
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