Japan, NATO to deepen ties amid 'rising fears' from Russia, China
As part of his Asia trip, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirms the need to "remain united and firm," alongside Japan.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, on Tuesday, during his visit to Tokyo as part of an Asia trip, that Japan and NATO must "remain united and firm" in the face of security Chinese, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Russian "threats", especially given the situation of the war in Ukraine.
In a joint press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Stoltenberg warned that China monitored closely the war in Ukraine and was allegedly "learning lessons that may influence its future decisions."
"What is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow. So we must remain united and firm, standing together for freedom and democracy," the NATO chief claimed.
Increased China-Russia cooperation
The two leaders emphasized their growing concerns regarding the increased cooperation between China and Russia.
"We highlight with concern Russia's growing military cooperation with China, including through joint operations and drills in the vicinity of Japan," they said during the joint statement.
In that regard, Stoltenberg also praised the "strong position" and "substantial support" that Japan has offered to Ukraine so far.
According to the NATO chief, China is "not our adversary" but advised caution as he referenced its growing military presence across Asia, "including nuclear weapons, bullying neighbors and threatening Taiwan." Furthermore, Stoltenberg claimed that China has spread disinformation regarding the alliance and the situation in Ukraine.
The DPRK was also considered a point of increased concern as the two leaders regarded its most recent nuclear activity and ballistic missile tests as "provocative behavior".
On his part, Kishida emphasized Japan's intention to establish an independent representative office that would handle NATO matters as the country aims to deepen ties with the alliance.
Furthermore, the PM noted that the country considered becoming a regular participant in high-level meetings held by NATO.
Japan's defense plan to 'strengthen and modernize' US alliance
Following news on December 16 that Japan will overhaul its defense policy, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the new policy will "strengthen and modernize" the country's military alliance with the United States.
"Japan's goal to significantly increase defense investments will... strengthen and modernize the US-Japan Alliance," Sullivan said.
Tokyo pledged to increase security expenditure to two percent of GDP by 2027, reorganize its military command, and buy new missiles, which can target distant enemy launch sites in its biggest defense shake-up in decades.
The move includes the purchase of as many as 500 US-made Tomahawk missiles.
The undisclosed portion of the budget also includes "standoff" missiles with a development budget of more than 30 billion yen - the most expensive item in this year's budget, as per media reports.
"Fundamentally strengthening our defense capabilities is the most urgent challenge in this severe security environment," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last week.
On this issue, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the move showed "Japan's staunch commitment to upholding the international rules-based order and a free and open Indo-Pacific."
Tokyo is eyeing a major arms buildup since World War Two, intensifying tensions with China while increasing its coordination with the West in the Asia Pacific region.