Japan is negotiating to open Asia’s first NATO liaison office in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, according to Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. The foreign minister cited last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine as a significant event that caused Japan to rethink regional security and noted that the world has become more unstable since then. The opening of a NATO liaison office is crucial for the Western alliance as it faces deep geopolitical rifts. The move has attracted negative comments from China, which has warned against such an action. The Japanese and NATO officials have not disclosed any details on the ongoing negotiations.
Japan is not a member of NATO, but the move is significant as it means that the bloc’s Asia-Pacific partners are “engaging in a very stable way,” as per Hayashi. Japan’s liaison office, like similar offices in other locations, would be discussing geopolitical challenges, emerging and disruptive technologies, and cyber threats with other NATO security partners, including South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
Hayashi emphasized Japan’s “harsh and complex” regional security environment, and the rising tensions related to Russia’s increasing aggression, a nuclear-armed North Korea, and a growing China. Japan has also recently announced its most significant military buildup since World War II, including building up its navy and air force in areas surrounding Japan. Tensions between Japan and Russia have also escalated in recent months due to Russian military exercises in waters between the two countries.
Despite escalating tensions in the region, Hayashi said the potential office opening was not directed at any specific country and was not intended to send a message. He downplayed concerns about opening a NATO office in Tokyo, saying he does not think that would escalate tensions. Japan has maintained a pacifist constitution since World War II, which Hayashi argued is reflected in the move.