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France Opposes NATO Office in Japan, Official Says

France has expressed its lack of enthusiasm regarding a proposal for NATO to establish a liaison office in Japan. This comes shortly after French President Emmanuel Macron stated that such a move would be a “big mistake.”

The suggestion to open a NATO office in Tokyo, marking its first presence in Asia, has been made in response to the growing challenges posed by China and Russia.

The increasing military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow in the Asia-Pacific region was highlighted recently when the Russian and Chinese militaries conducted joint patrols over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. This prompted South Korea and Japan to scramble fighter jets in response.

These joint patrols, initiated in 2019, were established based on expanding bilateral ties between China and Russia, fueled partly by a shared perception of threat from the United States and other military alliances.

As calls for NATO to enhance collaboration with partners in northeast Asia continue, France appears hesitant to support any actions that could escalate tensions between the alliance and China.

“Nato [stands for] north Atlantic, and both article V and article VI [in its statutes] clearly limit the scope to north Atlantic,” a French official, who asked not to be named, said on Tuesday.

“There is no Nato liaison office in any country in the region. If Nato needs situational awareness in the region it can use the embassies designated as the point of contact,” the official added, reacting to an article first published in the Financial Times.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s top government spokesperson, declined to comment on President Macron’s reported remarks regarding NATO’s proposed liaison office in Japan.

Matsuno stated that “various considerations” were underway within NATO. The establishment of such an office in Japan would require unanimous approval from the North Atlantic Council, where France holds the power to veto the plan, as reported by the Kyodo news agency.

China has expressed anger towards the proposal for a liaison office in Japan, with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, stating that Asia falls outside the geographical scope of the North Atlantic. Wang further accused NATO of intruding into regional affairs and inciting bloc confrontation.

He urged Japan to make the “right call” and avoid actions that could undermine trust among regional countries and peace and stability in the region.

NATO, originally designed as a security organization focused on the transatlantic region during the Soviet era, is now grappling with defining its role in the face of a rising China while also supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

In response to the proposal for a NATO liaison office in Asia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the importance of strengthening partnerships with Indo-Pacific allies, stating that events in Asia have implications for Europe, and vice versa.

While Stoltenberg did not specify the location of the proposed office, he acknowledged the existence of a “request” and mentioned that NATO is exploring the possibility of establishing such an office.

According to reports, French President Emmanuel Macron personally objected to the idea of expanding NATO’s geographical scope.

During a recent conference, Macron warned that doing so would be a “big mistake.” French officials are also displeased that the matter became public before undergoing full consultations among NATO members.

It is worth noting that earlier this year, Macron made a significant state visit to China in an effort to enhance bilateral relations with President Xi Jinping.

Macron’s suggestion that Europe should maintain some distance from the tensions between China and the United States regarding Taiwan stirred controversy.

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