(Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, concerned about China’s rising military spending and disputes with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea, signed a new partnership agreement with NATO on Tuesday.
The accord, signed by Abe and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during Abe’s visit to NATO’s Brussels headquarters, will deepen Japan’s cooperation with the Western military alliance in areas such as counter-piracy, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
After addressing ambassadors from the 28 NATO nations, Abe drew a parallel between the situation in Ukraine, where Russia has occupied and annexed Crimea, and Asia, in an apparent allusion to a standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
“We will not tolerate any change of status quo through intimidation or coercion or force. This is not only applicable to Europe or Ukraine. This is applicable to East Asia and it is applicable to the whole world,” Abe said at a joint press conference with Rasmussen.
“Japan does not actually expect NATO to play a direct military role in the Asia-Pacific region, but it does expect allies to share perceptions and approaches,” Michito Tsuruoka, a senior research fellow at Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies, wrote in a paper for the NATO Defense College last year.
Tension between Japan and China spiked last year when Beijing announced an air-defense zone over a wide area including the disputed islands.
Abe told NATO ambassadors he believed Japan should play a more active role in defending the freedom of overflight and navigation.
Full article: Japan, worried about China, strengthens ties with NATO (Reuters)