Relations with Japan
NATO and Japan work together bilaterally on a range of common security challenges such as cyber defence, new technologies or maritime security, as well as through NATO’s broader relations with its partners in the Indo-Pacific region. In today’s complex global security environment, Japan and NATO are committed to enhancing political dialogue and practical cooperation in order to uphold and strengthen the rules-based international order.
- NATO and Japan have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation since initial contacts in the early 1990s.
- NATO and Japan signalled their commitment to strengthening cooperation in a joint political declaration signed in April 2013. From 2014, work was taken forward through a NATO – Japan Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. Currently, the cooperation is guided by an Individually Tailored Partnership Programme that NATO and Japan agreed in July 2023.
- Practical cooperation is being developed in a wide range of areas, including cyber defence, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, non-proliferation, science and technology, human security, and Women, Peace and Security.
- Japan is one NATO’s partners in the Indo-Pacific region, together with Australia, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand. The Indo-Pacific region is important for the Alliance, given that developments in that region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security.
Key areas of cooperation
Japan’s cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and covers many common security challenges, including:
- Cyber defence: Japan has participated in NATO’s cyber defence exercises Cyber Coalition and Locked Shields. The country has also become a contributing participant at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia.
- Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief: As part of a NATO-coordinated air-bridge to provide relief following the devastating 2023 earthquakes in Türkiye, Japan flew hundreds of tents and other cargo to Türkiye. This was the first international emergency relief operation conducted by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in cooperation with the Alliance.
- New technologies: NATO and Japan are enhancing their cooperation in the area of emerging and disruptive technologies through Japan’s participation in the activities of NATO’s Science and Technology Organization (STO). Japan is also engaged in the framework of the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, particularly in activities in the fields of counter-terrorism and the detection and clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance. Ongoing research and multi-year projects with Japan are aimed, for instance, at advancing procedures and technologies for the safe detection of landmines. Expanding on the results of previous cooperation, Japanese scientists are researching a semiconductor-based sensing device that will facilitate the identification of explosive chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials or special nuclear material at ports and border crossings.
- Maritime security: Japan has had a longstanding cooperation with the Alliance on maritime security. Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force trained with NATO ships in the Mediterranean in 2022 and in the Baltic Sea in 2018. Japan has designated a liaison officer to NATO’s Maritime Command.
- Interoperability: Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Japan has been participating in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with selected partners that are active contributors to NATO’s operations.
- Trust Funds: Japan has made generous contributions to NATO Trust Fund projects in various partner countries. Most recently, Japan has provided significant support to Ukraine, including through a contribution to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine. Previous important contributions by Japan were designed to enhance stockpile management and the physical security of ammunition in Afghanistan and Tajikistan; destroy dangerous stocks of pesticides in the Republic of Moldova; and clear an ammunition depot in Georgia, as well as contaminated land in Azerbaijan.
- At the 2021 NATO Summit in Brussels, Allies agreed to increase dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and existing partners, including Japan as one of the partners in the Indo-Pacific region. This commitment was reiterated in the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept, the Alliance’s core policy document. Cooperation with partners in this region is key to addressing the increasingly complex global security environment, including Russia’s war on Ukraine, the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China, and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
- In June 2022, the Prime Minister of Japan participated in the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, together with the Leaders of other partners from the Indo-Pacific region (Australia, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand). This was the first-ever participation of Japan in a NATO summit. In July 2023, the country participated in its second meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government, at the 2023 Vilnius Summit.
- In April 2022 and April 2023, Japan participated in the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meetings. This followed Japan’s first-ever participation in a NATO ministerial meeting, in December 2020.
- Japan also regularly participates in meetings held at NATO Headquarters in Brussels between NATO Allies and the four partners in the Indo-Pacific region at the level of Ambassadors. Recent meetings have focused on climate change and security, arms control, and maritime security.
Support for NATO-led operations and missions
- Japan provided support for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and for wider reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan. It helped to mobilise international support for Afghanistan by organising the Tokyo Conference in July 2012 and pledging USD 5 billion to this end over a five-year period (2009-2013). Earlier, Japan supported efforts to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate former combatants, and to reintegrate insurgents under the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme. It also supported various initiatives, including human security projects at the grass roots level in several regions of Afghanistan, and contributed to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.
- 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 country, it has contributed to the successful recovery of the Balkans region and its reintegration into the European mainstream.