Japan to enhance defense and economic ties with Italy

Rome: The leaders of Japan and Italy announced their intention to strengthen cooperation in security and defense, including advancing their joint development of a next-generation fighter jet with Britain.

Tokyo welcomed Italy’s decision to expand its involvement in the Indo-Pacific, following a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni. Italy plans to increase its presence in the region, scheduling several visits by its warships, including its strike group, and joint exercises throughout the year.

“Japan and Italy are valuable strategic partners that share values and principles such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law,” Kishida said.

Kishida also commended the progress made in the joint development of a new advanced fighter jet with Britain. In December, the three countries signed an agreement to establish a joint organization for developing a new advanced jet fighter to be deployed by 2035.

Japan, rapidly bolstering its military, aims to enhance its capability to counter China’s growing assertiveness while welcoming Britain’s increased presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Italy recently withdrew from China’s global Belt and Road Initiative after apparently perceiving minimal benefit from it.

The joint fighter jet development involves Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, BAE Systems PLC of Britain, and Leonardo of Italy.

However, the project depends on Japan easing its postwar ban on exporting jointly developed lethal weapons to third countries, a matter that Kishida’s government is struggling to finalize by the end of February. Kishida pledged full support for Meloni to successfully convene their Puglia summit in June.