Japan, NATO enhance ties amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Japan, NATO enhance ties amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The Associated Press

Japanese and NATO officials are increasing military cooperation and joint exercises amid shared concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is jeopardizing security in Europe and Asia.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said after meeting with NATO Military Committee chief Rob Bauer in early June 2022 that Japan hopes to strengthen its ties with European countries and welcomes NATO’s expanded involvement in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The security of Europe and Asia are closely intertwined, especially now with the international community facing serious challenges,” Kishi said.

While Bauer was in Tokyo, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force was participating in NATO naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea.

Japan is increasing its military capabilities and cooperating with Europe, Indo-Pacific partners, the United States and other nations in the face of aggressive moves by the People’s Republic of China. (PRC) (Picture: Adm. Rob Bauer, left, chairman of NATO’s military committee, and Gen. Koji Yamazaki, chief of the Japanese Defense Ministry’s Joint Staff, speak in Tokyo in early June 2022.)

Japanese and U.S. fighter jets conducted joint flight drills in early June over the Sea of Japan “amid an increasingly severe security environment, such as North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches,” Japan’s Defense Ministry said.

The joint exercise, which involved four Japanese F-15 fighter jets and two U.S. F-16s, was aimed at demonstrating the two militaries’ “strong commitment and close cooperation in responding to any emergency, while further reinforcing the strong alliance,” the Ministry said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is invited to the NATO summit in Madrid in late June. If he goes, it will mark the first time a Japanese leader has attended one of the meetings.

In May 2022, Japanese Military Chief of Staff Koji Yamazaki joined a meeting of NATO counterparts in Belgium.

Bauer praised the increased engagement in tackling “shared security challenges.”

Japan quickly joined the United States and Europe in imposing sanctions against Russia and providing support for Ukraine, saying the crisis affects not only Europe but also could embolden the PRC to increase its assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.