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EDITORIAL | NATO Needs a Tokyo Liaison Office to Facilitate Cooperation

While NATO is engaging with Japan more than ever, postponing a Tokyo liaison office may lead China to conclude that it has little interest in the Indo-Pacific.



Leaders of the AP4 countries, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Vilnius. July 12, 2023. (via Cabinet Office of Japan)

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida just finished attending the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

After Kishida met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, they announced an agreement on the Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP). The agreement calls for security cooperation in 16 goals with four priority issues.

We welcome the signing of this agreement to further strengthen security cooperation between Japan and NATO.

Prime Minister Kishida sits with other invited guest countries at the NATO summit meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12. (via Cabinet Office of Japan)

What Kinds of Cooperation?

For 2023-2026, the partnership program includes cooperation in cyber defense, maintaining security in space, and countering disinformation.

Both sides will also collaborate in the fields of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It is hoped the agreement will improve the interoperability of the Self-Defense Force and the militaries of NATO countries.

Japan and the European NATO countries are located respectively on the eastern and western perimeters of the huge Eurasian landmass. And they are also positioned east and west of the North American continent. 

Nevertheless, there is no geographic limitation to dealing with cyber, space, and disinformation. NATO and Japan share values such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Their cooperation will contribute to global peace and stability.

NATO and Asia

NATO invited Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand to the summit. All four are NATO's partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Addressing the summit, Kishida reiterated that Japan will aid Ukraine. Also, he emphasized our nation’s belief that security for the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions is indivisible. He furthermore welcomed the growing interest and engagement in the Indo-Pacific by "like-minded countries" in the Euro-Atlantic.

It is appropriate that the prime minister called for Japan and NATO to strengthen their ties. They are also partners who share values and strategic interests. Such unity will be effective in deterring the despotic regimes in China and Russia.

France's President Emmanuel Macron arrives to address media ahead of a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania July 11, 2023. (© REUTERS/Ints Kalnins)

Opening Macron's Eyes

On the other hand, a decision to open a liaison office in Tokyo, which NATO has been considering, was postponed. It was delayed until the fall or later due to the insistence of French President Emmanuel Macron. The French president expressed concern that such a move would provoke China.

However, the aim of the proposed liaison office would be to promote security cooperation in the region. It would make Tokyo a hub for invigorated liaison and coordination with like-minded countries. Those include Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand.

The French government has already signaled its commitment to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. President Macron’s personal view seems to be responsible for the delay in establishing the liaison office. However, if the opening is ultimately postponed, China may conclude that NATO has little interest in the Indo-Pacific. 

We urge the Kishida administration and NATO members other than France to encourage President Macron to change his mind so that the opening of the NATO Tokyo liaison office may become a reality. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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