Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce an agreement today in Tokyo for the two countries to increase defense cooperation, a foreign ministry official said.
The enlarged exchanges could include mutual visits by ministers and senior members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, according to the official, who asked not to be identified in line with ministry policy after briefing journalists on May 10 about the agreement. Abe will also urge Netanyahu, the first Israeli prime minister to visit Tokyo in six years, to restart peace talks with the Palestinians that he suspended last month, the official said.
The move to strengthen ties with Israel comes at a time when Japan is becoming increasingly dependent on Arab countries for oil. Japan relies on the Middle East for more than 80 percent of its oil imports, an even more vital resource while its nuclear power plants are offline following the March 2011 tsunami.
Abe has visited six Gulf states since taking office in December 2012, and has sealed agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations on deepening cooperation in security and defense. No Japanese Prime Minister has visited Israel since Junichiro Koizumi in 2006.
Iran will also be among the topics of discussion at the summit, as talks begin in Vienna aimed at resolving a decade-long standoff and reining in the country’s nuclear activities. Netanyahu has insisted the Islamic republic’s nuclear program be dismantled to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Abe and Netanyahu will also agree to promote joint industrial research and development, according to documents provided by the foreign ministry. There are no plans to extend this to collaboration to weapons development at this stage, the foreign ministry official said.
Netanyahu will meet Emperor Akihito tomorrow and receive courtesy calls from Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during his visit, which runs until May 15.