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EDITORIAL | Macron's Opposition to NATO Tokyo Office Boosts China's Aggression

If France turns a blind eye to the growing Chinese threat, it will throw into disarray the unified position of the G7 and NATO to keep Asia and Europe secure.

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Member country flags fly in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 27. (©Getty/Kyodo)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has put forth a proposal to establish a liaison office in Tokyo. However, the proposal has reportedly been blocked by France, a leading member of the defensive alliance.

The influential British daily The Financial Times has reported that French President Emmanuel Macron adamantly opposes opening the office. It would be NATO's first in Asia.  

French Ambassador to Japan Phillipe Setton has commented on the matter. "Although we do not support the opening of a Tokyo office, we do believe that it is important to strengthen the cooperative relationship between NATO and Japan."

It is hard to understand France's stance on this issue. 

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) along with Prime Minister Kishida write their names at the Atomic Bomb Museum. On May 19 at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. (© Kyodo)

A Stance That Conflicts with NATO and G7 

If Paris is reluctant to even agree to the opening of a liaison office, it is hard to see how cooperation between Japan and NATO can be enhanced. Japan cooperating with NATO is meant to restrain China's "change of status quo through force." However, in the future, people will only sneer when they hear that.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech and also visits the Laboratoire Aguettant pharmaceutical production plant in Champagne. In France, June 13, 2023. (©REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Pool)

The FT story reported on President Macron's comments during a recent conference. Macron reportedly declared, "If…we push NATO to enlarge the spectrum and the geography, we will make a big mistake." 

If France adopts a policy of turning a blind eye to the growing Chinese threat, it will throw the unified position of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations into disarray. That position also holds that the security of the Indo-Pacific and Europe are inseparable.

If China annexes Taiwan or otherwise expands its hegemony in the region, Europe will also suffer serious fallout. Above all, Taiwan is a country that upholds the values of freedom and democracy. President Macron should realize this.

Likewise, the same applies if Russia succeeds in its aggression against Ukraine. It is sure to have an adverse impact on the security environment surrounding Japan. 

Appeasing China Does Not Bring Peace and Stability

France shares responsibility for peace and stability in the world. As its leader, President Macron should not cower before China. Instead, he should reverse his position and agree to the opening of the NATO office in Tokyo. 

France
French President Emmanuel Macron is taken for a walk in the garden by Chinese President Xi Jinping at his official residence in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China, April 7. (© AP via Kyodo)

Japan and NATO issued a joint statement in January 2022. In it, they stressed that unilateral change of the status quo by force is not acceptable anywhere in the world. The G7 Hiroshima Summit in May, which President Macron attended, further reaffirmed this. In their leaders' statement, they said the "importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."

France has dispatched naval vessels to Japan. And it has participated in joint training exercises in Japan involving the Self-Defense Forces and the French Army and Navy. Many Japanese have welcomed France's interest in peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 

All these laudable efforts will have been in vain if France continues to oppose the establishment of a Tokyo NATO office.

We further hope that Mr Macron will come to realize the impact of his opposition. If it continues, he will undermine Japan's respect for France and what we expect of his great nation.

Sir, please do not seek to appease the hegemonic Chinese government.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun