The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization visited Tokyo on Tuesday and called for NATO to forge a stronger partnership with Japan as the alliance has its eyes on the region after labeling China a “systemic challenge.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and hailed his plans to double military spending as part of a US-encouraged buildup aimed at China.
“I strongly welcome these strategies and that Japan is raising its level of ambition. Including with new capabilities. And your plan to reach the NATO benchmark of investing 2% of GDP in defense in 2027,” Stoltenberg said alongside Kishida.
Japan’s recently released a new national security strategy that named China “the biggest strategic challenge, unlike anything we have seen before.” Stoltenberg said he agreed with Japan’s assessment of China.
“Your strategy recognizes that China’s behavior is ‘a matter of serious concern.’ NATO agrees. China is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons. Bullying its neighbors, and threatening Taiwan. Trying to control critical infrastructure. And spreading disinformation about NATO and the war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO issued its new Strategic Concept Document last June that said China poses a “systemic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security.” But the alliance made clear in 2020 that it would begin putting a focus on China in a report that called for the alliance to forge stronger ties in the Asia Pacific to counter Beijing.
Stoltenberg also thanked Japan for sanctioning Russia and providing support to Ukraine. A day earlier, the NATO chief was in South Korea and called for Seoul to “step up” its support for Ukraine by breaking from its long-standing policy of not sending weapons into a conflict zone.
“On the specific issue of military support, I would say that’s at the end of the day, a decision for you to make,” Stoltenberg said at the CHEY Institute in South Korea. “But I will say that several NATO Allies, who had as a policy never to export weapons to countries in conflict have changed that policy now.”