By Chen Junfeng and Wang Wei
It is recently reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan may appoint a specially-assigned ambassador to NATO, changing the previous practice of having its ambassador to Belgium doubling as ambassador to NATO, and thus binding itself more tightly with this organization. As the international situation is going through an unstable period, Japan, a country with a militarist history, getting increasingly close with the world’s most powerful military and political organization today is sure to arouse close attention and vigilance in the international community.
In recent years, Japan has been actively approaching NATO, not only supporting the so-called "Asian Pacific version of NATO" conceived by the US, but also attempting to play a key part in it. In 2013, it signed the first Joint Political Declaration with NATO, whereby the two sides agreed to cooperate in such areas as counter-piracy, disaster relief, and counter-terrorism; later they further intensified military interactions. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s attendance at the NATO Madrid Summit in June 2022 made him the first Japanese leader to ever attend this summit. Moreover, Japan has been an eager participant in the US-led quadrilateral mechanism and the Indo-Pacific economic framework. It’s easy to see that it has become the chief accomplice in America and NATO’s ploy to roil the waters in the Asia Pacific.
But Japan is obviously not contented. After all, the ROK, Australia and New Zealand also participated in the Madrid summit as non-members, and ROK even joined the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence earlier as the first official member from Asia. Appointing a specially-assigned ambassador to NATO will enable Japan to stay in better touch with the organization and further cement its position and role in it. During the Madrid summit, Fumio Kishida urged NATO to pay more attention to and engage more deeply in Indo-Pacific affairs. In the longer term, Japan is very likely to seek to host NATO’s office in the region.
But "benefiting others without thinking of itself" is never in Japan's nature. Cooperating in NATO's expansion is just a pretext to tighten their relations, while Japan’s real goal lies in its own “normalization”. While the US is hyping up the “major-country competition” and seeing China and Russia as the strategic archrivals, Japan has danced to the American tune by hyping the "China threat" in hopes of getting Washington’s approval of lifting the ban on its military development and fundamentally enhancing its defense capacity. It's clear that Tokyo is determined to be the vanguard of NATO’s expansion into Asia Pacific. As long as NATO keeps widening its presence in the region, Japan, the so-called bridgehead, can take the opportunity to play a bigger role in military, even become a military and political power in Asia again. In this process, it has attempted successively to break the restrictions imposed by the pacifist constitution, assigned the Japan Self-defense Forces (JSDF) overseas on the excuse of “making international contributions”, and developed aggressive military forces.
By that time, Japan, with largely enhanced military strengths, will be more active on the overseas military stage and more frequently meddle in Asian Pacific affairs militarily. Considering that the country has never thoroughly reflected on its history of aggression, there is a big chance that Japan will once again become the source of regional turmoil and warfare, posing a serious threat to regional peace and stability.
Japan, a country still haunted by militarism; NATO, the world’s largest military organization functioning as a tool to maintain American hegemony. Their closer relationship and attempt to introduce to the Asia Pacific a security model that has already proven a failure in Europe will only lead to new unrest. Japan should be reminded that leading the plague to the East is extremely unwise and inviting a wolf into the house is equal to self-destruction. Both the plot to establish a so-called Asian Pacific version of NATO and the accelerated push for the organization to turn to the Asia Pacific are against historical trends and bound to meet with vehement opposition from regional countries. Those who are behind such moves will end up outsmarting themselves and digging their own graves.