Japan, N.Z. leaders oppose use of force

Jiji Press
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, and his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, shake hands after their joint press conference in Tokyo on Thursday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his visiting New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, agreed Thursday to never tolerate the use of force to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, with China in mind.

The two leaders also condemned Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

Their meeting was held in Tokyo amid growing concerns over a possible change in the security environment in the South Pacific after the Solomon Islands said in late March that it has reached a basic agreement on a security pact with China.

At a joint press conference following the meeting, Kishida stressed, “Japan and New Zealand strongly oppose such attempts [to change the status quo] in any region, including the East China Sea and the South China Sea.”

Kishida and Ardern also affirmed their countries’ cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

They agreed to reject economic coercion and unfair trade practices, as well as to strengthen their countries’ cooperation with Pacific island nations.

The two leaders reached an agreement to start negotiations on concluding an information protection pact between Japan and New Zealand.

With the two countries marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations this year, Ardern said she chose Japan as one of the destinations of her first overseas trip since her country relaxed its strict COVID-19 border control measures, noting that the decision represents her emphasis on Japan.

She said that she is ready to welcome students, tourists and business travelers to New Zealand from Japan, expressing hope for revitalizing human exchanges between the two countries.