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Japan, New Zealand Plan Talks on Expanded Defense Cooperation

Japan and New Zealand on Thursday announced negotiations to expand defense and security cooperation, including intelligence sharing, as they warned of regional challenges — in a veiled reference to Beijing.

The announcement came after talks between Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, who is in Tokyo as part of an Asian trip intended to shore up alliances and bolster trade after a pandemic hiatus.

In a joint statement, the two sides reiterated existing common positions on a range of issues, including their shared opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and concerns over regional threats.

“Attempts to change the status quo by force can never be tolerated,” Kishida told reporters after talks with Ardern.

“Japan and New Zealand strongly oppose such attempts in any regions including the East and South China Seas,” he said, though neither leader directly named Beijing.

“We had candid talks about strengthening the strategic partnership between our two countries and generated a concrete result,” Kishida said, announcing a decision to “start talks on a deal in the areas of security and defense.”

In the joint statement, the two sides warned of “growing challenges to the fundamental values and principles shared by Japan and Zealand”, reiterating their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The statement said the two countries would now work on a “legal framework for the reciprocal protection of classified information exchanged between the government to enable more seamless sharing.”

Japan is not part of the Five Eyes intelligence network group — comprising New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Britain, and Canada.

But it has been working to bolster other alliances to confront China, including the Quad grouping with the United States, India, and Australia. The Quad is expected to hold a summit in Japan next month.

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