Japan: NATO’s longest-standing partner in the Asia-Pacific
Building on initial contacts that were made in the early 1990s, NATO and Japan have developed political dialogue and practical cooperation in a wide range of areas of mutual interest over the past two decades. Stabilising Afghanistan and working together to address emerging security challenges are important priorities. The breadth of this cooperation and the strategic vision underpinning it are captured in the joint political declaration that was signed during the recent visit of NATO’s Secretary General to Tokyo from 13 to 16 April.
“Japan is our longest-standing global partner,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, addressing the Japan National Press Club. “This long partnership is understandable. Because NATO and Japan are like-minded. We share the same values. We share the same security challenges. And we share the same desire to work together. So we can help the United Nations and the international community to reinforce the rules-based international system. And to build security and stability – both in our own regions, and beyond.”
Pointing to the complex, unpredictable and potentially lethal security challenges in an increasingly interconnected world, Fogh Rasmussen underlined the importance for the Alliance of engaging with partners in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan. “Our economies, our people, and our security are all interlinked.”
“We see the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery, raising tensions in strategically important areas of the world, including here in the Asia-Pacific region. We see that disruptions to our transport, to our information systems, and to our energy supplies, can cause enormous damage to individuals, to nations, and to the world economy,” he explained.
“Geography and distance can no longer protect us. No country and no continent can be insulated against these new, global security challenges. And no country, and no continent, can deal with them on its own,” he stressed.
The Secretary General took the opportunity of his visit to thank the Japanese people and their government for “the considerable and consistent support that Japan has provided to NATO these past 20 years.”
Support for stabilisation operations
In the Balkans, where NATO deployed its first peacekeeping operations in the 1990s, Japan played an important role as a major donor to building lasting peace and stability by supporting reconstruction and economic development.
In Afghanistan, Japan has provided much-valued support over the past decade for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and for the development of the country’s national security forces, as well as humanitarian assistance and reconstruction.
Japan helped mobilise international support for Afghanistan’s ongoing development by organising the Tokyo Conference in July 2012 and has itself pledged 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 it continues to support efforts to reintegrate insurgents under the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.
Moreover, Japan has made valuable contributions to the Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund aimed at equipping and sustaining the ANA, promoting literacy, and procuring medical supplies. Additionally, Japan has made generous contributions to project aimed at enhancing stockpile management and the physical security of ammunitions.
Japan has also been supporting the salaries and training of Afghan police by contributing generously to the United Nations Development Programme’s Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOFTA) since 2007.
Japan has also provided financial support to grassroots projects in a number of regions in Afghanistan since 2007, helping construct roads, wells, clinics and schools, and providing aid to many rural development projects.
This multi-layered approach is aimed at helping to provide the security Afghans need to be able to rebuild their nation with their own hands, as well as the tools necessary for Afghans to prosper, while also providing immediate care to those who need it most.
Cooperation with Japan today is not limited to Afghanistan. The country is currently supporting a NATO-sponsored ammunition stockpile-management project in Tajikistan and, in the past, contributed to a project to clear contaminated land and safely dispose of unexploded ordnance in Azerbaijan.
Moreover, Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force has assisted NATO ships with preventing pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden.
The joint political declaration signed in Tokyo indicates areas in which NATO and Japan would like to intensify political dialogue and deepen practical cooperation. These include crisis management, peace-support operations and disaster-relief efforts, as well as defending against emerging threats from missiles, pirates, or in cyberspace.
“By working together, NATO and Japan can continue to strengthen our partnership. Promote our values. And enhance security and stability for the benefit of everyone,” said NATO’s Secretary General.