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Leaders of Japan, France share Middle East concerns

TOKYO (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have agreed to bolster naval defense ties in the Indo-Pacific region and shared concerns about growing tensions in the Middle East.

Macron, in Tokyo ahead of this week's Group of 20 summit in Osaka, told a joint news conference that he also hoped tensions over the U.S.-China trade dispute will ease during the summit. The two leaders discussed nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran and issues to be raised at the G-20 summit.

Macron said he and Abe agreed on the need to ensure the verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of both Iran and North Korea. "On both these topics we have a common point of view and a real will, in the two cases, to reach collective security by the non-acquisition of nuclear weapons or the total, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization," Macron said. "And we have the will to ensure the stability of these regions."

Abe said protecting the safety of the Strait of Hormuz is also crucial. During his recent visit to Tehran in hopes of de-escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S., a Japanese oil tanker was attacked, though all 21 crewmembers were safe.

"Securing safety of navigation at the Strait of Hormuz, which connects Europe and Asia, is extremely important for the peace and stability of international society including Japan and France," Abe said. He said he and Macron shared concerns about the rising tension in the Middle East, and reaffirmed their cooperation in efforts to stabilize the situation.

Asked about former Nissan and Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn, charged with financial misconduct, Macron said he is "attached to the principle of the presumption of innocence and to the rights of the defense." He also said France is responsible for protecting an important company and its employees from a negative impact, and to reaffirm the "solidity" of Renault and that of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

Macron said heightened tensions caused by the trade dispute between the U.S. and China are also a global concern. "We are at a time of very high tensions between the United States and China, so I wish we have, during the G-20, talks that will enable the appeasement of these tensions," Macron said.

"For me, the solution to the problems we encounter is not in bilateral agreements, is not in bypassing international rules, is not in protectionism, but it is very clearly in the modernization of the trade multilateral framework," Macron said.

Talks planned for Saturday between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit are getting extensive attention. Abe, at another news conference, said he hopes the two leaders will have a constructive dialogue.

Japan and France also unveiled a five-year roadmap of cooperation focusing on maritime security, especially in the Indo-Pacific where China has been growing increasingly assertive. They also agreed to promote cooperation in defense technology, space, and science and technology.

Associated Press journalists Catherine Gaschka in Paris and Haruka Nuga in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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