A spokesman for the government revealed this week that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will be arriving in Tokyo next week to meet with Fumio Kishida, where, among other issues, the Japanese foreign affairs official will request that France not move ahead with its plans to sell helicopter landing equipment to China. The concern for Japan is directly tied to the ongoing territorial dispute over a small group of islands in the East China Sea.
It is expected that the meeting between the two officials will see Kishida try to explain to Fabius that China is going to install the helicopter equipment on its patrol ships that are regularly used to violate Japan-controlled waters around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. In addition to using sea vessels, several months ago China made a number airspace violations over the islands using official Beijing government aircrafts, as well as fighter jets. Should Chinese maritime surveillance vessels be able to host helicopters, it would surely enable their ability to frustrate the Japanese government with more intrusions.
France has stated that its understanding is that the helicopter equipment is not be used for military purposes, and since it is based on civilian technology, it is not in violation of the ban on arms sales to China imposed by the European Union. Next week’s meeting will be the third strategic dialogue between the French and Japanese ministers, and they are also to discuss a June visit to Japan by France’s President Francois Hollande.
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