Japanese Prime Minister Expected to Address East Asia Security Risks at NATO Summit

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will attend the NATO summit in Lithuania on July 11, where he is expected to bring attention to security challenges present in East Asia.

Mr. Kishida’s upcoming participation at the NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius marks his second visit, following his historic attendance last year as the first Japanese leader to attend a NATO summit.

His visit, along with the leaders of South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, comes as Japan increases defense spending to deter Chinese and Russian forces in the waters and skies around the country.

At the upcoming meeting, Japan is expected to be included in NATO’s Individually Tailored Partnership Program, opening the way for cooperation on cybersecurity, space, and information sharing on China and Russia.

Mr. Kishida has sought to strengthen cooperation with NATO in the wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and China’s assertive military activity in the East Asia region, particularly in the Taiwan Strait.

He met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Tokyo earlier this year and issued a joint statement, in which they both raised concerns over Russia’s growing military cooperation with China, including through joint operations and drills in the vicinity of Japan.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Jan. 31, 2023. (Takashi Aoyama/AFP via Getty Images)

The two leaders strongly opposed unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and called for a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues between China and Taiwan.

“Our basic positions on Taiwan remain unchanged, and we emphasize the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element in security and prosperity in the international community,” the statement reads.

Mr. Kishida had warned that the invasion of Ukraine could be replicated in East Asia if leading powers do not respond as one, saying peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait must be maintained.

Japan has previously raised concerns over China’s military threat toward Taiwan. Last year, the ministry devoted 10 pages of its annual defense report (pdf) to Taiwan, double the pages of the previous year’s edition, giving an extensive overview of the security situation there.

Japan is also working toward opening a NATO liaison office to allow the U.S.-led alliance to consult with regional partners, which will be the first of its kind in Asia, Japanese envoy Koji Tomita said on May 9.

The office would help NATO to facilitate consultations with its key Asia-Pacific partners—Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea—and act as a point of contact with other nations in the region.

However, the military alliance is unlikely to agree to open an office in Tokyo in the face of French President Emmanuel Macron’s opposition to a move that could irritate China and open NATO up to accusations of geographical overreach.

“If we push NATO’s presence in the Indo-Pacific area and expand its reach, we will be making a big mistake,” a French foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Carl Schuster, former director of operations for the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, told The Epoch Times on June 2 that NATO is “taking a renewed and increasing interest in Asian security,” and that placing a liaison office in Tokyo indicates that “Japan is drawing closer to Europe in terms of security cooperation.”

Asian security is also relevant to European peace, suggested Mr. Schuster, adding that “Europe has a very extensive trading interest, and any threat to the international seaways, freedom of navigation, any bullying that threatens any of the Asian countries, those all affect Europe.”

The establishment of a NATO liaison office in Tokyo shows that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy” of the past five years has backfired, according to Mr. Schuster, because European opinion of China has changed.

“In some cases, the [European] countries are becoming diplomatically skeptical about China,” he said, citing the CCP’s activities in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and other southern neighbors, as well as its alignment with Russia’s aggression.

Jenny Li, Lynn Xu, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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