On February 5, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni at his official residence in Tokyo. During their meeting, the two leaders agreed to cooperate in addressing various issues at the upcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit. The summit will be held in the southern Italian province of Puglia in June.
Kishida and Meloni also confirmed they would promote Japanese, Italian, and British trilateral development of next-generation fighter jets. Furthermore, both leaders intend to accelerate security cooperation at the scheduled talks between foreign affairs and defense officials in March.
Junior coalition party Komeito has remained cautious about easing restrictions on defense hardware exports to third countries. However, at a Budget Committee of the House of Representatives meeting on February 5, Kishida indicated his intention to hasten a consensus. He told the committee, "The ruling parties would like to reach a decision by the end of February."
Handing Over the G7 Presidency
The meeting also marked the handover of Kishida's G7 presidency to Meloni. In a joint press release following the meeting, Kishida affirmed that he would fully support Italy at the summit. "Japan will spare no effort in cooperating with Italy for the success of this year's Puglia Summit," he stated.
At the dinner following the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on China's increasingly hegemonic actions. They also discussed North Korea's repeated ballistic missile launches and Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
On the humanitarian front, Kishida and Meloni agreed to work together to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip.
At the Hiroshima Summit in May 2023, G7 leaders launched the Hiroshima AI Process, a framework for generative artificial intelligence (AI). Building on this behavioral policy, both leaders reaffirmed the G7's commitment to taking the lead in achieving safe, secure, and reliable AI.
Among the G7 leaders, many considered Kishida and Meloni to be on the same wavelength in certain respects. Through this meeting and their subsequent dinner, the two leaders further deepened their relationship of trust.
Kishida has often spoken highly of the 47-year-old Meloni and her ability as a politician. He reportedly described his Italian counterpart as "amazing" for "becoming prime minister in her forties."
Meloni's young daughter accompanies her on outings whenever possible. During the Hiroshima Summit in May 2023, Kishida presented the girl with a stuffed toy of the popular Hello Kitty character as a gift. Meloni was grateful and thanked the Prime Minister for his kindness. This episode is indicative of the close personal relationship Kishida and Meloni share.
Practical Views on China
Meloni is head of the Brothers of Italy, a populist right-wing party labeled "far right." Consequently, there was widespread concern in the Japanese government following her assumption of office in 2022.
However, since becoming prime minister, Meloni has developed cooperative diplomacy. She has reassured G7 leaders by aligning Italy with the United States and Europe against Russian aggression in Ukraine.
It is also significant that Kishida and Meloni are partners who share a similarly firm and practical understanding of China. The reality is that some leaders within the G7, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, prioritize relations with China. Meloni once told Macron, "It is the G7's duty to confront China."
Italy was the only G7 nation on China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But Meloni withdrew from the initiative in December 2023, clearly distancing Italy from China.
Valuing Relations with Taiwan
China has been increasing military pressure on Taiwan with the aim of "reunification." Even before receiving the prime ministership, Meloni declared her support for Taiwan.
She has also called for increased pressure on China by the European Union (EU). Strengthening relations between Italy and Japan will be an important factor in shaping international public opinion on Taiwan. This will prove crucial in preventing a Taiwan contingency that could directly lead to a crisis in Japan.
- Polls Say PM Kishida is Not Popular, Yet His Achievements Show Him In a Good Light
- EDITORIAL | Japan Can Lead in Fighter Jet Making, Komeito Holds It Back
- EDITORIAL | G7 Nations Must Counter China's Belt and Road Debt Trap
(Read the article in Japanese.)
Author: Shingo Nagahara