France to step up involvement in Indo-Pacific

The head of the French military in the Asia-Pacific has expressed France's intention to strengthen security cooperation in the region with Japan and the United States.

Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey, Joint Commander of French Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific, spoke online with NHK in his first interview with Japanese media.

Rey said the French military will remain involved in the Indo-Pacific region and expressed its readiness to increase cooperation with Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

Rey said "some actors in the area" do not respect international rules, and tension is increasing around the Taiwan Strait. He was apparently referring to North Korean violations of UN sanctions and China's maritime activities.

He said France promotes peaceful resolution of conflicts and difficulties between countries.

Rey said deployment of naval vessels and military aircraft requires a base, port and airport. Citing the absence of France's own bases in East Asia, he stressed the importance of the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa.

The French military sent a patrol plane to the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa from October through this month. This was for a surveillance mission against offshore ship-to-ship transfers of cargo headed for North Korea, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

France's AFP news agency released video from November 2 on surveillance activity near the Korean Peninsula.

The video shows a large ship and a smaller ship side by side in what AFP describes as a cargo transfer.

The officer in charge of the surveillance mission explained that ships involved in such activity try to elude surveillance through false radio communication or other means.

The officer said the patrol plane tries to make radio contact with such ships and ask many questions to judge whether there has been a violation.