Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Tuesday expressed Japan's support for Sweden's bid to join NATO, ahead of a summit of the trans-Atlantic military alliance next month.

Hayashi and Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson also shared the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation during their meeting in Tokyo, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, amid the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine and China's intensifying military activities in the Indo-Pacific.

The talks came as the NATO leaders will likely discuss Sweden's membership, which must be approved by all 31 member countries, at their two-day meeting scheduled from July 11 in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on June 6, 2023. (Kyodo)

Most of the NATO nations, including the United States, are ready to accept the Scandinavian country as a member, while Turkey and Hungary have reservations about its entry.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022 to seek security against Russia, which began invading Ukraine in February that year, through the alliance's collective defense guarantee.

Finland, a Russian neighbor known for its decades-long military neutrality, became a NATO member in April.

Hayashi told Jonson that Tokyo supports Stockholm's decision to apply for NATO entry since cooperation with like-minded nations has become more important amid the growingly severe international security environment, according to the ministry.

"The security of Europe and that of the Indo-Pacific are actually indivisible," Hayashi said at the outset of the meeting, in a veiled reference to concerns about the Ukraine war's implications in Asia, where China's military presence is increasingly being felt.

Jonson said that Sweden places importance on relations with Japan and that he will further promote collaboration, especially in the Indo-Pacific, the ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Jonson told a press conference at the Japan National Press Club that his nation is "hopefully on the verge of joining NATO very soon."

Jonson arrived in Japan on Monday after visiting Singapore to attend the three-day Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, which ended Sunday.

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