Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and six of his most important ministers have arrived in Tokyo for the first Japanese-German government consultations. After a flight of more than twelve hours overnight with the government plane “Konrad Adenauer”, they landed in the Japanese capital on Saturday afternoon (local time).

The consultations between the two governments are intended to significantly improve relations between the already close friends. They are led by Scholz and the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The return journey is already planned for Sunday morning.

The focus will be on economic security. The main focus is on expanding international cooperation in order to reduce dependencies on individual economic powers, for example when it comes to importing raw materials. Germany wants to learn lessons from its former dependence on Russia for gas, which could only be broken after the Russian invasion of Ukraine through a tour de force. Japan, which also imports raw materials on a large scale, has enacted its own law on economic security, which the federal government regards as exemplary. A separate ministerial post was also created for the priority topic.

“Will continue to fly the flag in the Indo-Pacific”

The meeting also deals with defense issues. The Bundeswehr has already sent a warship and fighter jets to the Pacific region to strengthen cooperation with friendly armed forces there. She wants to take part in exercises again this year. “We will continue to fly the flag in the Indo-Pacific,” said the German delegation. There are several territorial conflicts in the South China Sea between China and countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Added to this is the conflict between China and Taiwan, which sees itself as independent, which the government in Beijing does not accept.

Government consultations – i.e. meetings of several cabinet members from both sides – are nothing new for the federal government. In the past, for example, they already existed with China, India, Brazil, Israel and, until 2012, also with Russia. In this way, relationships with partners who are already close or strategically important are further deepened. According to the German delegation, the fact that Japan is now being accepted into this “exclusive club” is “a logical completion” from the German point of view. The government in Tokyo, on the other hand, has no experience with this conversation format. So the German side first had to explain to her how something like this works.

Scholz sent a clear signal with his visit to Japan

After taking office, Scholz made great efforts to deepen relations with Japan. In April 2022, it was the first Asian country he visited. He deliberately did not follow the example of his predecessors, Angela Merkel (CDU) and Gerhard Schröder (SPD), who traveled to China first. Scholz was already sending out the signal back then that Germany wanted to position itself more broadly in Asia in order to reduce its economic dependency on China. The trip to Beijing followed in November.

The Chancellor will be accompanied in Tokyo by six of his most important ministers: Robert Habeck (Vice Chancellor and Economy, Greens), Annalena Baerbock (Outside, Greens), Christian Lindner (Finance, FDP), Nancy Faeser (Inside, SPD), Boris Pistorius (Defense , SPD) and Volker Wissing (transport, FDP). An eleven-strong business delegation was to be added on site.

Japan currently chairs the G7, a group of economically strong democracies. The annual summit takes place in Hiroshima in May. Scholz will then travel to Japan again.