Relations with Japan
NATO and Japan are currently strengthening relations to address shared security challenges, building on dialogue and cooperation that have been developing since initial contacts in the early 1990s. Stabilising Afghanistan has been a key focus of cooperation over the past decade.
- Japan is one of a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area – often referred to as “partners across the globe” – with which NATO is developing relations.
- NATO and Japan signalled their commitment to strengthening cooperation in a joint political declaration signed in April 2013.
- Work is being taken forward through an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme, agreed in May 2014.
- Practical cooperation is being developed in a wide range of areas, including peace-support and crisis management activities, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defence, defence against terrorism, non-proliferation, as well as participation in military activities.
Japan has provided much-valued support for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and for reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan. Japan helped mobilise international support for Afghanistan’s ongoing development by organising the Tokyo Conference in July 2012 and pledged itself US$5 billion to this end over a five-year period (2009-2013).
In the past, Japan supported efforts to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate former combatants, and supported efforts to reintegrate insurgents under the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program. It also provided generous financial support to human security projects at grass roots level in several regions of Afghanistan since 2007. Japan has also been contributing generously to the United Nations’ Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) since 2007, mainly to support the salaries and training of Afghan police, with donations amounting to over US$1.3 billion.
Moreover, Japan has made valuable contributions to the Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund aimed at equipping and sustaining the ANA, including US$20 million for literacy programmes as well as funds to procure medical supplies. Additionally, Japan has made generous contributions to a NATO/Partnership Trust Fund project in Afghanistan with a view to enhancing stockpile management and physical security of ammunitions.
Japan has supported similar Trust Fund projects in other partner countries, including an ammunition stockpile-management project in Tajikistan, the destruction of pesticides in Moldova, the clearance of an ammunition depot in Georgia, as well as projects aimed at clearing contaminated land and safely dispose of unexploded ordnance in Azerbaijan. Most recently, Japan has contributed to NATO’s Medical Rehabilitation Trust Fund for Ukraine.
In the 1990s, Japan played a role in stabilising the Balkans, where NATO has led several peace-support operations since the mid-1990s – as a major donor nation, it contributed to the successful recovery of the Balkans region and its reintegration into the European mainstream.
More recently, Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force has assisted NATO ships with preventing pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden. Japan has designated a liaison officer to NATO’s Maritime Command.
A strategic dialogue involving high-level discussions held alternatively in Japan and at NATO Headquarters in Brussels has been ongoing since the early 1990s. Initial exchanges led to more structured and regular contact, and the two sides now hold annual political consultations.
In January 2007, during his first term as Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe addressed the North Atlantic Council (NAC). Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Japan in April 2013 for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and top officials in his government on security issues of shared concern as well as opportunities for deeper cooperation. In May 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to NATO Headquarters in Brussels to hold discussions with the Secretary General and address the NAC. It was during this visit that Japan’s Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme was concluded.
Prime Minister Abe returned to NATO in July 2017 for bilateral consultations with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In turn, the Secretary General visited Tokyo on 29-31 October 2017, to meet with Prime Minister Abe, as well as with Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera. Demonstrating the deepening of relations between NATO and Japan in recent years, Japanese officials have participated in a number of informal exchanges of views with Allies on security issues of mutual interest, such as North Korea, assistance to Afghanistan, cooperation with Central Asia, missile defence and counter-piracy.