Japanese Foreign Minister Addresses NATO on Strategic Relations

Washington – Japan intends to work more closely with NATO, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso told the alliance’s main governing body, the North Atlantic Council, meeting in Brussels on May 4. 

Aso, in the first formal address by a Japanese foreign minister to the council, said that “now is the time” for discussions on deeper relations between NATO and Japan.  His appearance comes as the alliance is looking at strengthening its relations with nonmember countries, an issue slated for discussion at the NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia, in November.  (See related article.)

NATO and Japan have had an ongoing strategic dialogue since the early 1990s, with officials meeting on a biannual basis to discuss security topics of mutual interest. In 2005, NATO representatives visited Tokyo, where they discussed potential expansions of NATO-Japanese strategic relations, including an agreement to open several NATO-sponsored training courses to Japanese military officers.

In May 3 Congressional testimony, Kurt Volker, the United States’ principal deputy secretary of state for European affairs said that the United States supports NATO’s efforts to “develop its relationship with global security partners, such as Australia or Japan.” He added that the alliance should collaborate with like-minded democracies from around the world to develop regular working relationships.  (See related article.)

In his welcoming remarks to the Japanese foreign minister, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that even though Japan seems remote from the trans-Atlantic alliance, “Global threats ignore geography and we are involved in one way or another in many of the same theaters of operations.” 

Scheffer highlighted Japanese engagement in demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants in Afghanistan support of coalition forces in the Indian Ocean, and its presence in Iraq, where NATO has established officer training.  (See related article.)

"We have far too much in common to allow our geographical separation to prevent us from working closely together," Scheffer said. 

For additional information, see International Security.