Photo/Illutration Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni welcomes Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the Chigi Palace in Rome on Jan. 10. (Reuters Photo)

PARIS--Japan upgraded its relationship with Italy to the level of “strategic partnership” after the two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation, primarily in the areas of national security and economics.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made the comment Jan. 10 during a news conference in Rome after talks with his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni.

The upgrade follows an agreement reached in December by Japan to jointly work with Italy and Britain to develop a next-generation fighter jet to be used by the Air Self-Defense Force.

Kishida and Meloni agreed to set up a forum for discussions on national security that would involve their respective foreign and defense ministers.

During the news conference, Meloni said joint development of the fighter jet would become “a theme that has an important impact on the private sector and research areas.”

Kishida and Meloni also agreed during their meeting to advance discussions on a pact for joint production of movies.

“Both Japan and Italy have wonderful movie industries and there are many Japanese who are great fans of Italian movies,” Kishida gushed. “I am very happy that the pact will promote joint production of movies by our two nations.”

Prior to visiting Italy, Kishida met here Jan. 9 with French President Emmanuel Macron for discussions that centered on national security.

At a news conference there, Kishida said, “We will continue to promote cooperation with France, which is a Pacific nation, in light of the increasingly severe national security environment.”

As an aspect of that cooperation, Japan in December established a consular office in New Caledonia, where the French military operates a base.

Macron referred to that development at the joint news conference, saying, “It recognizes the attraction and vitality of our overseas territories.”

He added that France was keen to build a stronger partnership with Japan.

France has moved to strengthen its presence in the Indo-Pacific region, through, among other things, the dispatch in February 2021 of a frigate to monitor maritime transfer of cargo by North Korean ships.

(This article was written by Taro Kotegawa and Kosuke So.)