NATO to Open First Asia-Pacific Office in Japan: Reports


NATO is reportedly planning to open a liaison office in Tokyo, the first in the Asia-Pacific region, as it moves to deepen ties with Asia-Pacific nations amid increasing concerns over the threat of China’s communist regime.

Nikkei Asia reported that the regional office would allow the military alliance to conduct consultations with its key Asia-Pacific partners (AP4)—Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea—and act as a point of contact with other nations in the region.

The proposed plan is to open a one-person office in Tokyo next year. However, negotiations about whether the office will be provided by Japan or funded by NATO are still ongoing.

Danish ambassador to Japan, Peter Taksøe-Jensen, said the geopolitical landscape had changed drastically since its 2010 Strategic Concept.

“At the time, Russia was considered a potential partner, and there was no mention of China. In 2022, at the Madrid Summit, allied leaders decided that Russia was no longer a partner but a foe and that there was also an acknowledgment that China’s rise would and could have an impact on trans-European security,” he told Nikkei Asia.

“This is why it is important for NATO to keep up relations with our partners in this region.”

Taksøe-Jensen said the new office would represent more than a symbolic relationship between NATO and Japan as cooperation between both parties will focus on challenges such as cyber security and disinformation.

The idea was reportedly first discussed during NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Tokyo on Jan. 31 and is expected to be finalized soon.

Leaders of the AP4 were invited to NATO’s 2022 leaders’ summit in Madrid for the first time and are again expected to attend this year’s event in Lithuania. This suggests that the inclusion of the AP4 may become the new norm.

NATO-Japan Partnership

NATO and Japan have increased engagement as partners that shared common values, warning in a joint statement of China and Russia’s growing military cooperation that could destabilize the region, including drills around Japanese territorial waters.

During Stoltenberg’s January visit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan plans to regularly attend high-level council meetings and chiefs of defense meetings to promote closer communication between Japan and the alliance.

“With regard to China’s rapid strengthening of its military capabilities and expansion of military activities, we strongly encourage China to improve transparency and to cooperate constructively with international efforts for arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation,” the statement says.

Similarly, the duo stressed the importance of “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and called on China’s communist regime to desist from its aggressive provocations against 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 says.

China Clearly Identified as a Threat

NATO began actively engaging in the Asia-Pacific region due to the implications of the Ukrainian conflict.

Its 2022 Strategic Concept highlighted the Chinese communist regime as a priority for the first time. The Strategic Concept is the second-most important document in NATO, provides a collective assessment of the current security environment, and guides NATO’s political and military development.

“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) employs a broad range of political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions, and military build-up,” the document said.