Japanese PM weighs in on NATO membership

Fumio Kishida confirmed that the US-led military bloc is looking to open a liaison office in Japan

Japan has no plans to become a member of NATO, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

He told the national parliament on Wednesday that Tokyo would not be joining the US-led military bloc in any form, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, Japanese Ambassador to the US Koji Tomita told Nikkei Asia that Japan was “working” towards opening a NATO liaison office in Tokyo, which would become the bloc’s first in Asia.

The same outlet had earlier reported that the mission, which is scheduled to open next year, would be aimed at facilitating NATO’s consultations with Japan and its other allies in the Asia-Pacific, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, in light of geopolitical challenges posed by China and Russia.

Kishida confirmed to MPs that NATO is considering the possibility of establishing a liaison office in the country. However, he added that he was “not aware of any decision made” within the bloc regarding the mission.

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China reacts to reports of NATO office in Japan 

The alliance has recently openly admitted its interests in the Indo-Pacific. Last June, the bloc’s allies from the region participated in a NATO summit for the first time ever. Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have also been invited to the event this year. The 2023 summit will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 11 and 12.

Russia, which strongly opposes NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe, has criticized the bloc’s attempts to extend its activities into Asia. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the push by the US and its allies to create what he called a “global NATO” resembled the actions of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan in the 1930s before the outbreak of World War II.

China has also urged its Asian neighbors to exercise “high vigilance” in response to reports of NATO planning to open its first liaison office in the region. Such a move “will inevitably undermine regional peace and stability and stoke camp confrontation,” Beijing warned, adding that the Asia-Pacific region was “not a wrestling ground for geopolitical competition.”

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