Japan is planning to begin talks with France on a new security agreement to facilitate joint exercises and disaster relief operations, government sources said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to discuss the pact, known as a reciprocal access agreement, during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday, according to the sources.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida waves from a government plane at Tokyo's Haneda airport on May 1, 2024, prior to his departure for a six-day trip to France, Brazil and Paraguay. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Japan has been stepping up efforts to strengthen security relations with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region, apparently to enhance deterrence against China's growing military assertiveness in nearby waters.

France has strategic interests in the region as it has overseas territories in the area, such as New Caledonia in the South Pacific, while Tokyo has been at odds with Beijing over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, claimed by its neighbor, in the East China Sea.

The Japanese government has already reached RAAs with Australia and Britain, facilitating smoother and quicker troop deployments between these nations. Additionally, Japan has initiated negotiations with the Philippines for such an accord.

Japan has had a similar pact with the United States since 1960, called the Status of Forces Agreement.

With China increasing its military influence in the region, Japan and France have already signed separate deals to expand their security cooperation, including an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, or ACSA, which simplifies the process of sharing food, fuel and ammunition between their forces.

Kishida is on a six-day overseas trip that will take him to France, Brazil and Paraguay.