NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in Japan as part of his East Asia tour, said “our security is closely interconnected” and called for stronger ties with Japan as Russia’s war on Ukraine raises global dangers and shows that democracies need stronger partnerships.
Stoltenberg said his visit to Japan “is a way to further strengthen the partnership between NATO and our highly valued partner Japan.”
Japan also has significantly stepped up ties with NATO recently.
Reports by AP and other agencies said:
“The war in Ukraine also demonstrates that our security is closely interconnected,” Stoltenberg said during his visit at the Iruma Air Base north of Tokyo, where he started his Japan visit Tuesday after arriving late Monday from South Korea.
“If President (Vladimir) Putin wins in Ukraine it will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians, but it will also send a very dangerous message to authoritarian leaders all over the world because then the message will be that when they use military force they can achieve their goals,” he said. “So the war in Ukraine matters for all of us.”
Japan, a close ally of the U.S., has in recent years expanded its military ties with other Indo-Pacific nations as well as with Britain, Europe and NATO amid growing security threat from China and North Korea.
Japan has been quick to join the U.S.-led economic sanctions against Russia’s war on Ukraine and provided humanitarian aid and non-combative defense equipment for the Ukrainians.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has sounded alarm that Russia’s aggression in Europe could happen in Asia, where concerns are growing over already assertive China and its escalating tension near Taiwan.
Japan issued a new national security strategy in December stating its determination to build up its military and deploy long-range missiles to preempt enemy attacks in a major break from its post-World War II principle that limited itself to self-defense. Japan also hopes to further ease restrictions on arms export to strengthen the country’s feeble defense industry.
While in South Korea on Monday, Stoltenberg called for South Korea to provide direct military support to Ukraine to help Kyiv to fight off the prolonged Russian invasion. So far, Seoul has only provided humanitarian aid and other support, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries in conflict.
Stoltenberg met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday and discussed Seoul’s commitment to support Ukraine and NATO’s possible role in dissuading North Korea from its growing nuclear ambitions following an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests in 2022, Yoon’s office said.
Stoltenberg on Sunday mentioned U.S. intelligence reports accusing North Korea of providing weapons to Russia to support its war in Ukraine.
North Korea condemned his visits to South Korea and Japan, saying that NATO was trying to put its “military boots in the region” and attempting to pressure America’s Asian allies into providing weapons to Ukraine.
In a statement released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea criticized increasing cooperation between NATO and U.S. allies in Asia as a process to create an “Asian version of NATO” that would raise tensions in the region.
NATO To Strengthen Partnership With Japan, Says Stoltenberg
A Reuters report said:
NATO will continue to strengthen its partnership with Japan amid the ongoing Ukraine war, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday during a visit to Japan, where he will meet with Japanese PM Kishida.
Stoltenberg’s trip, which included a stop in South Korea, is aimed at bolstering ties with Western allies in Asia in the face of the war in Ukraine and rising competition with China.
An earlier Reuters report said:
Stoltenberg urged South Korea on Monday to increase military support to Ukraine, citing other countries that have changed their policy of not providing weapons to countries in conflict following Russia’s invasion.
Stoltenberg was speaking in Seoul, the first stop on a trip that will also include Japan and is aimed at strengthening ties with Western allies in Asia in the face of the war in Ukraine and rising competition with China.
Speaking at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul, he thanked South Korea for its non-lethal aid to Ukraine, but urged it to do more, adding there is an “urgent need” for ammunition.
“I urge the Republic of Korea to continue and to step up on the specific issue of military support,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s a decision for you to make, but I’ll say that several NATO allies who have had as a policy to never export weapons to countries in a conflict have changed that policy now,” he said, citing Germany, Sweden and Norway.
“If we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they (Ukrainians) need weapons, that’s the reality,” said Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister.
South Korea has signed major deals providing hundreds of tanks, aircraft and other weapons to NATO member Poland since Russia invaded Ukraine. But President Yoon Suk-yeol has said a South Korean law that forbids supplying weapons to countries engaged in conflict makes it difficult to send arms to Ukraine.
Russia calls its invasion, launched on Feb. 24, a “special operation” to ward off threats to its own security.
Stoltenberg also met with Yoon and Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, who echoed calls for closer ties with NATO based on shared values, but did not publicly address calls for more military aid to Ukraine.
In meetings with senior South Korean officials, Stoltenberg said events in Europe and North America were interconnected with those in other regions, and that the alliance wanted to help manage global threats by increasing partnerships in Asia.
The NATO chief said it was “extremely important” that Russia doesn’t win this war, not only for the Ukrainians but also to avoid sending a wrong message to authoritarian leaders, including in Beijing, that they can get what they want by force.
Although China is not NATO’s adversary, it has become “much higher” on NATO’s agenda, he said, citing Beijing’s rising military capabilities and coercive behavior in the region.
“We believe that we should engage with China on issues like arms control, climate change and other issues,” he said. “But at the same time, we are very clear that China poses a challenge to our values, to our interests, and to our security.”
Responding to a question about Stoltenberg’s remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Monday that China was a partner to countries, not a challenge, and that it did not threaten any nation’s interests or security.
“We also hope that NATO will abandon its Cold War mentality and the concept of bloc confrontation, and do more for the security and stability of Europe and the world,” Mao told a regular news briefing.
A Prelude To Confrontation
In a statement carried by state media on Monday, North Korea called Stoltenberg’s visit a “prelude to confrontation and war as it brings the dark clouds of a ‘new Cold War’ to the Asia-Pacific region”.
Last year South Korea opened its first diplomatic mission to NATO, vowing to deepen cooperation on non-proliferation, cyber defence, counter-terrorism, disaster response and other security areas.