French President Emmanuel Macron objects to NATO’s plans to open a liaison office in Japan and thinks the alliance should stay in the North Atlantic, Financial Times reported on Monday.
NATO’s push to open its first office in the Asia Pacific is part of the US’s plans to get its Western allies more involved in its strategy against China in the region. NATO’s plans to open a Japan office were first reported by Nikkei Asia in early May, drawing a rebuke from Beijing.
People familiar with the matter told Financial Times that France’s position has complicated NATO talks on the Japan office, which have been ongoing for months. A French official said that Paris believes the NATO charter limits the alliance’s geographic range to the North Atlantic.
Macron has said publicly that he doesn’t think NATO should expand beyond the North Atlantic. “If … we push Nato to enlarge the spectrum and the geography, we will make a big mistake,” the French leader said last week.
All 31 NATO members need to agree to open a new liaison office, meaning France could potentially block the move. News of France’s position comes nearly two months after Macron said Europe should not follow the US into a conflict with China over Taiwan.
NATO has had its eyes on China for a few years now, and Beijing has repeatedly warned the alliance to stay out of the region. “NATO’s continued eastward foray into the Asia Pacific and interference in regional affairs will inevitably undermine regional peace and stability and stoke camp confrontation. This calls for high vigilance among regional countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said last month.