Leaders of Japan, Italy agree to elevate relations to strategic partnership

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni have agreed to upgrade the two countries' relationship to a strategic partnership.

The two leaders held talks for about an hour on Tuesday in Rome. Italy is the second stop of Kishida's trip to five of the Group of Seven nations. His trip comes ahead of May's G7 summit, which Japan will host in Hiroshima.

The prime ministers confirmed that they will work together to hold a successful summit amid global challenges such as the conflict in Ukraine and food and energy problems.

Kishida explained that Japan is working to bolster its defense capabilities to uphold a free and open international order.

The upgrade to a strategic partnership follows an earlier agreement by Japan, Italy and Britain to jointly develop a new fighter jet for Japan's Air Self-Defense Force.

Kishida and Meloni confirmed a mechanism would be set up for bilateral foreign and defense consultations to step up security cooperation.

The leaders met reporters after the meeting. Meloni said the elevation of the bilateral relations will lead to stronger ties in every field, and will provide businesses and people of both countries with new opportunities.

She said the creation of the bilateral foreign-defense consultation mechanism will be the first concrete result of their partnership agreement.