NATO chief wants firmer ties with Japan to defend democracy

TOKYO (AP) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was in Japan as part of his East Asia trip, said “our security is closely linked” and called for stronger ties with Japan as Russia’s war in Ukraine poses global threats and shows what Democracies need stronger partnerships.

Japan has quickly joined US-led economic sanctions against Russia’s war on Ukraine, providing humanitarian aid and non-combat defense equipment to Ukrainians.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has sounded the alarm that Russia’s aggression in Europe could be taking place in Asia, where concerns are growing about an already confident China and its escalating tensions near Taiwan. Japan has also recently significantly intensified its relationship with NATO.

“The war in Ukraine also shows that our security is closely linked,” Stoltenberg said during his visit to Iruma Air Base north of Tokyo, where he began his visit to Japan on Tuesday after arriving from South Korea late Monday was.

“If President (Vladimir) Putin wins in Ukraine, it will be a tragedy for Ukrainians, but it will also send a very dangerous message to authoritarian leaders around the world, because then the message will be that they use military force can achieve their goals,” he said. “That’s why the war in Ukraine matters to all of us.”

Stoltenberg said his visit to Japan was “an opportunity to further strengthen the partnership between NATO and our esteemed partner Japan.”

He will meet with Kishida and hold a joint press conference later Tuesday.

Japan, already a close ally of the United States, has expanded military ties with other Indo-Pacific nations, as well as Britain, Europe and NATO in recent years in the face of growing security threats from China and North Korea.

Japan issued a new national security strategy in December, declaring its determination to build up its military and use long-range missiles to forestall enemy attacks, in a major break with its post-war principle of being limited to self-defense. Japan also hopes to further ease restrictions on arms exports to bolster the country’s ailing defense industry.

While in South Korea on Monday, Stoltenberg called on South Korea to provide direct military support to Ukraine to help Kyiv repel the ongoing Russian invasion. So far, Seoul has only provided humanitarian aid and other assistance, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying arms to conflict-affected countries.

Stoltenberg also met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday and discussed Seoul’s commitment to supporting Ukraine and NATO’s possible role in dissuading North Korea from its growing nuclear ambitions after an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests in 2022, he said Yoon’s office.

Stoltenberg on Sunday mentioned US intelligence reports accusing North Korea of ​​supplying weapons to Russia in support of its war in Ukraine.

North Korea condemned its visits to South Korea and Japan, saying NATO was trying to put its “military boots in the region” and was trying to pressure America’s Asian allies to supply arms to Ukraine.

In a statement released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea criticized increasing cooperation between NATO and US allies in Asia as a process to create an “Asian version of NATO” that would increase tensions in the region.


Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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