This week’s trip by the head of NATO to South Korea and Japan emphasises the importance of the alliance’s strategic goal of retaliating against China and North Korea while addressing the global effects of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
Over the weekend, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg began a four-day visit to South Korea and Japan with the goal of strengthening the alliance’s political connections with its leading Asian allies while tackling military challenges from China and North Korea.
On Sunday, Stoltenberg began his journey in South Korea, where he was welcomed in Seoul by senior South Korean officials. Stoltenberg discussed North Korea’s “reckless” nuclear and missile programmes with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin.
Additionally, Stoltenberg asserted that North Korea is assisting Russia in its conflict with Ukraine, demonstrating the “interconnectedness” of Europe and Asia. Both North Korea and Russia have refuted any aid that Pyongyang may be giving.
The head of NATO also urged Seoul to approve direct arms transfers, relax a ban on transferring weapons into conflict zones, and “move up on the question of military support” for Ukraine.
Ukraine has been receiving non-lethal assistance from South Korea. Additionally, it has agreements to supply tanks and fighter jets to Poland, a member of NATO. The president of South Korea has however reaffirmed that it goes against the nation’s policy to arm nations who are at war.
Stoltenberg stressed that “if we don’t want authoritarianism and tyranny to succeed, then they need weapons, that’s the fact” in a speech at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul.
In a second interview, he said, “We need to handle these global risks and problems, including the difficulties coming from China, and one way of doing so, of course, is to engage more closely with allies in the region.”
The NATO supremo is scheduled to meet with the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and other officials in Tokyo later this week to continue their security discussions.
Stoltenberg’s travel to Asia was intended to “reassure” Asian partners, according to Jim Townsend, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the former US deputy assistant defence secretary for Europe and NATO under former President Barack Obama.
“Stoltenberg’s visit’s timing is crucial. In addition to the threat posed by China’s tight ties to Russia, the conflict in Ukraine has an impact on Asian nations, he told DW.
He added that Stoltenberg’s visit to Tokyo will demonstrate NATO’s desire to deepen its ties to Asia.
“These visits also signify unity because it shows that NATO and Asia are willing to work together. This trip signals a stronger partnership seeking to deal with China, North Korea and Russia’s influence in Asia,” he added.
The necessity of addressing issues in East Asia was highlighted by leaders from Japan and South Korea during the NATO Summit held in Madrid the previous year.
According to Japan’s Kyodo news service, Japan’s Kishida expressed a “strong sense of crisis” at the Summit on the possibility of war in East Asia due to China’s military development and expanding presence in the East and South China Seas.