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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (right) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida while European Council president Charles Michel (left) looks on after they announced a joint statement at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on May 12 2022. Picture: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/POOL/GAMMA-RAPHO
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (right) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida while European Council president Charles Michel (left) looks on after they announced a joint statement at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on May 12 2022. Picture: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/POOL/GAMMA-RAPHO

Tokyo — EU leaders said on Thursday that the EU wants to become a bigger actor in Asia, which they termed a “theatre of tensions”, as they warned of an increasingly assertive China.

After talks in Tokyo, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a joint news conference they will keep up talks on ways to maximise their partnership to tackle Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, in areas such as energy.

But Michel and Von der Leyen also said they are aware that regional tensions exist in Asia as well, and the EU wants to take on a bigger role.

“The Indo-Pacific is a thriving region. It is also a theatre of tensions,” Von der Leyen said. “Take the situation in the East and South China Sea and the constant threat of the DPRK [North Korea].

“The EU wants to take a more active role in the Indo-Pacific. We want to take more responsibility in a region that is so vital to our prosperity.”

Both welcomed Japan’s participation in measures against Russia, including sanctions. “We welcome the increasingly strong stance Japan is taking against Russia,” Von der Leyen said at the start of their talks.

Tokyo has joined the EU and Group of Seven nations in imposing trade sanctions on Russia, which have cramped Moscow’s ability to export its oil and gas.

But Japan is heavily reliant on energy imports, including purchases from Russia. Last week Kishida said Japan will “in principle” ban Russian oil but it has been more reluctant to disengage from some projects.

The three officials were meeting in the Japanese capital for an annual conference that was held online last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reuters

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