According to the Associated Press, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and her Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, agreed to boost their defense, trade, and climate partnerships on Thursday. They agreed on the beginning of formal talks toward a military information sharing agreement.

Jacinda Ardern is in Japan for three days, her first overseas trip in over two years, to promote the country’s reopening for business and tourism after a lengthy COVID-19 border closure.

From mentioning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two leaders strongly denounced it, with Jacinda Ardern saying, “We are at a critical juncture.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern also worries about rising tensions between China and Taiwan, heating the area.

China has militarized many artificial islands in the South China Sea, and the two expressed worry over Beijing’s aggressive territorial extension.

They recited a joint statement by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, “any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order.”

Ardern said, “As two democracies, our approaches to the challenges facing our Indo-Pacific region are closely aligned.”

“We are committed to working toward a vision of an open, inclusive, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rules-based order and free from collusion.”

Beyond its long-standing alliance with the United States, Japan has formed partnerships and increased joint exercises with nations like Australia, India, the United Kingdom, and Europe in recent years.

On Thursday, New Zealand agreed to be the 10th one stepping up joint drills and seeking a military intel sharing with Japan.

Besides deepening cooperation in trade, energy, and green technology talks, Ardern and Kishida also voiced worries about human rights in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region and Hong Kong’s recent crackdowns.

A new security agreement signed by China and the Solomon Islands also triggered worries of a possible Chinese naval base on the doorstep of Australia and New Zealand.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, “The new security agreement between China and Solomon Islands could affect the security of the entire Pacific region, and Japan is watching the development with concern.”

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