Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged Wednesday to continue imposing punitive sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine, around three months before Japan hosts the Group of Seven summit.

During their meeting in Tokyo, Hayashi and Stoltenberg also exchanged views on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, while agreeing on closer collaboration between Japan and the U.S.-led, trans-Atlantic alliance, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (far R) holds talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (far L) in Tokyo on Feb. 1, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

On Tuesday in Tokyo, Stoltenberg confirmed with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that Japan and NATO will further cooperate in addressing "the changing strategic environment," with Russia and China bolstering their military ties recently.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning criticized NATO for strengthening security ties with Asia-Pacific countries and fabricating "China threats."

"The Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for geopolitical competition, and the Cold War mentality and confrontation between camps are not welcome," she said.

Mao also urged Japan to "learn lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development and refrain from doing things that undermine mutual trust among regional countries and damage regional peace and stability."

NATO regards Japan, a U.S. close ally, as a partner nation. Tokyo has been reinforcing security relations with the 30-country alliance, especially since the launch of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year, although Kyiv is not a NATO member.

On Wednesday, Hayashi told Stoltenberg that it is meaningful for Japan and NATO, which share fundamental values, to "deliver a strong message" at a time of "this historical inflection point."

Stoltenberg stressed the importance of his organization and Tokyo working together in various fields including security, and expressed his hopes for Japan's leadership as this year's chair of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima in May.

The G-7 countries of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union, have imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia over its aggression against Ukraine.

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, started his four-day tour to East Asia on Sunday. He made a trip to South Korea for talks with President Yoon Suk Yeol before visiting Japan.

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