Macron meets Japan PM Suga on Olympic visit, reaffirms commitment over Indo-Pacific

French President Emmanuel Macron with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on July 24, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron met his Japanese counterpart on Saturday (July 24) and took in some Olympic judo action after watching Tokyo 2020's opening ceremony in a nearly empty stadium.

Mr Macron is in Tokyo for the virus-postponed summer Games, with the 2024 edition of the sporting extravaganza set to take place in Paris.

He was one of around 1,000 officials and VIPs, including United States First Lady Jill Biden, in the stands for Friday's opening ceremony.

Regular ticket-holders were barred to limit the spread of Covid-19 as cases surge in the city, forcing almost all Games events behind closed doors.

On Saturday, Mr Macron held talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and top executives from some of Japan's biggest businesses.

The French president hailed the two countries' "exceptional" relationship after meeting Mr Suga.

"At a time when we are all fighting against the virus, striving for recovery, this partnership is a strength," he tweeted.

Mr Macron and Mr Suga wore masks and exchanged a double fist-bump in lieu of a handshake.

Tokyo is currently under a virus state of emergency, which limits alcohol sales and restaurant opening hours.

Coronavirus rules have forced Mr Macron to reduce his delegation to a minimum, and he is travelling with just a single minister.

The President on Saturday went to watch Olympic judo events - a highly popular sport in France. French judoka Teddy Riner is attempting to become the first heavyweight to win three Olympic titles.

French President Emmanuel Macron watching the Olympic judo events on July 24, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

In a joint statement, Mr Macron and Mr Suga repeated their commitment to a "free and open Indo-Pacific".

Japan welcomed France's intention, as presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2022, to reinforce the group's strategic policy, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific. The two sides also reaffirmed the importance of South-east Asian nations' role in the region

They said they discussed the fight against climate change, which "is not a constraint but an opportunity for innovation and job creation".

Their statement also touched on the issue of parental abduction in Japan, which does not offer joint custody for children in cases of divorce or separation.

"The two countries are working to strengthen their dialogue while prioritising the children's best interests," it said.

The subject has been in the headlines since a French father in Tokyo began a hunger strike to win access to his children, who he says were abducted by their Japanese mother.

Mr Vincent Fichot has not seen his two children in nearly three years and began a hunger strike outside the Olympic Stadium on July 10. Mr Macron's advisers met Mr Fichot on Thursday.

Vincent Fichot began a hunger strike outside the Olympic Stadium on July 10, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.