''NATO and Japan – natural partners''

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Japan National Press Club, Tokyo, Japan (followed by Q&A session)

  • 15 Apr. 2013 -
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  • Last updated 17-Apr-2013 14:14

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo

Mr Sugita, Ladies and gentlemen, Thank you for that kind introduction. And thank you very much for your generous invitation to host me at this prestigious institution. I know you follow regional and international developments with particular attention.

So let me start with a few remarks about the situation on the Korean peninsula.

I have just completed a visit to the Republic of Korea, the first by a NATO Secretary General. And I have made very clear the position of NATO Allies on events that concern us all - the series of North Korean statements, missile launches and nuclear tests. 

I reiterated that NATO strongly condemns North Korea’s provocative rhetoric and provocative actions. They pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability. And they remain in continued defiance of the will of the international community. I urge North Korea to refrain from any further provocations  and to fulfill its international obligations to fully implement all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. And I commend all efforts to seek peaceful solutions through dialogue. Because nobody could have an interest in further escalating the tensions in the region. 

My visit to Asia is about partnerships. It is an opportunity to showcase these partnerships and to make them stronger. Because our partnerships are in the interest of peace. 

This is not my first visit to Japan. I was here as Danish Prime Minister in 2002 when I headed the European Union delegation for the EU Summit with Japan.  My last visit was also as Danish Prime Minister, in 2006, when I came with a business delegation.  But this is my first visit as NATO Secretary General, and I am delighted to be back.

You might ask why the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation should come to the  Pacific region.  The answer is very simple. 

Today’s NATO is a new NATO.  It’s a NATO with a global perspective.  It’s a NATO with global partners.  And Japan is our longest-standing global partner.

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. 

But let me make one thing clear.  The Alliance’s global perspective does not mean that NATO seeks a presence in the Asia-Pacific region.   What it does mean, is that NATO seeks to work with the Asia-Pacific region.  And Japan is a key partner for this endeavour. 

In my remarks, I want to describe, briefly, what this new NATO is.  To take a look at how Japan and NATO are already working together.  And to share with you my ideas for how NATO and Japan can do even more together in the future. 

Let me start with a few words about the NATO of today.  Because it is very different from the NATO of the past. Today, globalisation faces us all with a wide range of security challenges.  They are more complex, more unpredictable, and potentially more lethal than ever before.

At the same time, we are all more closely connected than ever before – whether we want it or not.   Our economies, our people, and our security are all interlinked.  Today, because of globalisation, many nations and many international organisations, face similar security challenges.

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. 

And we see that 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.  

To these common problems, we need common approaches and responses.  To deal with instability.  To confront global threats such as terrorism, cyber attacks, and proliferation.  And to maintain the free movement of people, goods and information on which our economies and our very way of life depend.

Over the past two decades, NATO has been an important driver for that kind of international cooperation.

In the Balkans, in the 1990s, NATO intervened to put an end to massive human rights violations, and restored stability to the region.

In Libya, in 2011, we enforced an historic United Nations Security Council resolution to protect civilians from attacks. 

Off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, we are protecting the vital international sea lanes and helping reduce the rate of successful pirate attacks.

And in Afghanistan, we continue to deny a safe haven to extremists, to help build a safer future for Afghans and the whole region, and so to enhance the security of our own nations.

Today, practically all that we do, we do with partner nations, such as Japan.  Because we all know that in today’s security environment, cooperative security is the key to success. 

So let me take this opportunity to thank you for the considerable and consistent support that Japan has provided to NATO these past 20 years.

In the Balkans region, while NATO played the major military role in ending the war, Japan played a major economic role in building the peace.

Without the significant economic assistance that your country provided, the region would not be as stable, as safe, and as secure as it is today.

In Azerbaijan, you have helped to clear unexploded weapons and contamination from vast areas of land.

And in the Gulf of Aden, your Maritime Self Defence Force has been helping NATO ships to prevent attacks by pirates in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

But it is in Afghanistan where much of Japan’s assistance and support has been focused.  So many Afghan men and women benefit from Japan’s commitment -- and Japan’s contributions -- to make their country more safe and more secure. 

Through your support to reintegration programmes, you are helping to turn people who used to fight each other into valuable members of their local communities. 

Through the millions of dollars you have donated to grassroots projects, and with the help of the experts you have deployed to Afghanistan, you have helped build schools, medical facilities and water supplies, and improved literacy, health care, and vocational training. 

Through your generous donations, you are helping to make the Afghan Army better educated, better trained, and better able to look after security.  Literacy is vital not just for effective security forces, but for the Afghan society as a whole.  

And by hosting of the Tokyo Conference last year, you showed your clear commitment to the future of Afghanistan. You brought together the whole international community to support the Afghan people in the Decade of Transformation, which will begin in 2015.

NATO will continue to play its part in this broad international effort. In twenty-one months from now, our combat mission will be completed. But we are planning a new and different mission:  to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces after 2014.

A number of our current partners have already agreed to participate in this new mission.  I very much hope that Japan will continue its support for the efforts of the international community in Afghanistan, so that we can build on the important gains we have made together. So, for over 20 years, NATO and Japan have shared experiences of working side-by-side.  We have shared a common understanding of the common challenges we face.  And we have shared a commitment to contribute to the greater good.  All this has shown that we are like-minded.   We are natural partners.  And together, we can make a difference.

So how can we build on these experiences?  How can NATO and Japan deepen and broaden their relationship in the future to help make the world safer for all of us?

First and foremost, we should continue to intensify our political dialogue.  And I am delighted that later today, Prime Minister Abe and I will sign a Joint Political Declaration to guide our future work.

This Declaration highlights our shared values and our shared interests.  And it indicates areas where we can develop closer cooperation. 

This includes working more closely together in managing crisis situations.  Intensifying our cooperation in defence science and technology.  And improving our ability to respond to disasters, such as the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck your country two years ago.

Our Declaration also highlights the importance of cooperating more closely to deal with emerging security challenges -- terrorism, cyber attacks, piracy, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  These complex challenges require the closest possible international cooperation, including between Japan and NATO. So the Joint Declaration we will sign today is an important document which makes clear how much we value our relationship, and how we intend to invest in it in the future.  Because NATO’s global perspective means that stability and security here in the Asia-Pacific area is important for NATO. And stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area is important for Japan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have spoken about some of the areas where I believe we can – and should -- strengthen our partnership.  So that together we help to protect our mutual interests, and enhance peace and security in our own regions, and beyond.

NATO and Japan share the same commitment to freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.  And we share the commitment to protect those values. 

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.

Together, this is our vision.  And together, we can make it happen. 

Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Speaks in Japanese)

Q: My name is Muzi (sp?) Yomiuri Shimbun, staff writer in Tokyo. I'd like to ask you about China; because you did not refer to China at all on your speech. "Yes, has the military build-up of China become a threat to the security of Asian region and to the world?" is my question. And what is your perception about the situation?

And secondly, what can NATO do to stabilize the situation in Asia? And according to your perception, has your perception changed after you visited Asia? Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Thank you very much for your questions. First on China, we do not consider China a direct threat to NATO Allies.

Of course, we have taken note of the fact that the Chinese defence budget has increased substantially during recent years while defence budgets in NATO Allied nations have declined. These declining defence budgets in NATO nations are, of course, a matter of concern, seen from my chair as NATO Secretary General. And from an overall strategic perspective, of course, it may have a long-term impact on the global power balance that we are cutting defence budgets while China and other emerging powers are increasing their defence budgets.

But again, we do not consider China a direct threat to NATO Allies. We hope that China will use its increasing influence on the international scene in a peaceful way and in a constructive way to maintain international peace, security and stability.

I hope and I believe that the Chinese leadership realizes that it is in China's interest to maintain such international peace, security and stability; because the Chinese economic success depends very much on a stable world order.

Let me just add to that, that I would very much like to see a strengthened dialogue between NATO and China. NATO operates on the basis of United Nations mandates. And we have special relationships with four out of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Because three of them are Allies: the US, UK and France. And with the fourth, Russia, we have a special partnership rooted in the NATO-Russia Council. So we have a structured dialogue with four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council. But with the fifth, China, I would like to see a more structured dialogue. We have some dialogue. But it could be enhanced. And that could, I think, also contribute to preventing any misunderstandings.

Next question, you asked me: "What could NATO do to stabilize the situation in Asia?" Let me once again emphasize what I also stressed in my introduction. NATO has no intention to be present as an alliance in Asia. But we would very much like to engage with nations in Asia.

And actually, I think the best way we could contribute to promoting dialogue and peaceful solutions to conflicts in Asia would be to share our experience as to how we have succeeded in creating a Europe whole free and at peace. The stability in the Euro-Atlantic area is actually very much built on the existence of multilateral structures.

Multilateral structures that have promoted security and stability; but also strengthened economic cooperation; and by that, it has promoted economic prosperity. And I think Asia as well as other parts of the world could learn from that positive European experience.

Q: (Speaks in Japanese)

Q: My name is Ji Novata (sp?) from Urdu News. I have questions about Afghanistan. So in Afghanistan, NATO will finish combat operations and complete troop withdrawal by the end of 2014. Transition process is moving ahead. And... But there are too many uncertainties I think: First of all, capacity of the Afghan forces; and political solutions with the Taliban as well. "So with more than a ten-year intervention... military intervention by US and NATO bring peace to this war-zone country?" is the first question.

The second question is: "NATO is committed to support Afghan security forces after 2014; although we are not sure yet how many numbers will be maintained. But is it [sic] sure that the cost in terms of finance and internal personnel will be very heavy. So in your perspective, how long will we have to pay this cost? And how will it be shared by the countries, including Japan?” Thank you.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First question, how can we be sure that after 10 years of international presence in Afghanistan, how can we be sure that lasting peace will prevail in Afghanistan?

I'm quite confident that the Afghan security forces will be able to take full responsibility for the security in Afghanistan after 2014. Of course, that doesn't give a guarantee that there won't be attacks or conflicts. On the contrary, I do believe that enemies of Afghanistan will still try to destabilize the situation.

But I do believe that the Afghan security forces will be able to deal with that situation. Let me remind you that we have built up Afghan security forces to a level of 352,000 Afghan soldiers and police. That's a huge security force.

And more importantly quality-wise, we have really seen improvements of the Afghan security forces. Already now, they are in the lead of more than 80% of all security operations. And they have not yet taken full responsibility for the security.

Our strategy is to gradually hand over that responsibility to the Afghans. And by the end of 2014, they will take full responsibility all over Afghanistan. And our ISAF combat mission will end.

They have addressed several security and severe security challenges quite skilfully. I have seen Afghan special operation forces in action. I'm very impressed by what I saw. So I think they will be able to take full responsibility by the end of 2014 as planned.

And that leads me to the next question; because we will stay also after 2014, when the current combat mission ends. We will stay with a NATO-led training mission with the aim to train; give advice to; and assist the Afghan security forces.

We have not yet decided the exact size and scope of that training mission. Final decisions will be made in the coming months. But I can tell you that it will be a very different mission. It will be a non-combat mission and it will be a training mission with a significantly lower number of troops and trainers than the current ISAF combat mission.

So the Afghans will have the responsibility for the security. And to that end, they will need international financing. That was also part of your question. Because a security force of that size goes well beyond the financial capacity of the Afghan Government. And that's why the international community has pledged to contribute to the financing of the Afghan security forces.

The planning assumption has been that the annual cost would be around $4 billion. And based on the international community pledge to contribute to that financing, I'm confident that we will be able to finance the Afghan security forces after 2014. For how long will of course very much depend on the political willingness to finance the Afghan security forces as well as the security situation on the ground.

But economically, I think we should all take into account that it is less expensive to finance the Afghan security forces than to deploy foreign troops in Afghanistan.

MODERATOR: (Speaks in Japanese)

Q: (Speaks in Japanese)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First question, why did the six-party talks fail? Well, the obvious answer is because North Korea decided to discontinue participation in the six-party talks. And I'm not able to give any assessment of the thinking in Pyongyang or the rationale behind their behaviour. And actually I think that uncertainty and that unpredictability might be the greatest risk we are faced with. So this is the reason why we urge the North Korean leadership to resume talks, to pursue dialogue. That's the best way to find solutions. But it's also the best way to prevent any misunderstanding.

On China, which kind of dialogue? Well, what I mentioned was my desire to see a more structured China-NATO dialogue. But obviously it would also be to the benefit of the security in Asia if a multilateral dialogue could take place among major players in this region. And that leads me to... to your third question.

In principle, I think it would be possible to establish multilateral structures and institutions also in Asia. Of course, I realize that there are clear differences between the situation in Europe in the wake of the Second World War and the current situation in Asia. But you shouldn't underestimate the potential conflicts that existed in Europe at that time. But despite these potential conflicts, we succeeded in building multilateral structures.

First, NATO was established in 1949. And since then, NATO has been the bedrock of security in the Euro-Atlantic area. This close cooperation between North America and Europe has guaranteed peace and stability in that part of the world and protected that way the Europeans … the western Europeans at that time built the European Union; started with six countries in the late Fifties and then developed.

And after the end of the Cold War, the former communist countries were accepted as new democracies, as members of both NATO and the European Union. And by that, we really promoted not only peaceful solutions to conflicts; but also a stronger economic cooperation, more trade.

And it's well known that the stronger you are integrated economically, the smaller the risk that you start new conflicts; because you get more interdependence; and the more interdependence, the smaller the risk of war and strife and conflict.

And just to add to that, on top of all this, in the 1970s a very particular process was started in Europe called the Helsinki Process which was a conference that took place on a regular basis in which European countries on both sides of the divided Europe... both sides of the Iron Curtain participated with the aim to promote security-building, confidence-building, more transparency, better arms control. Why couldn't all this take place in Asia? Of course, it can. It's a question of political will. And I think actually that Asia needs more and stronger multilateral structures to deal with potential conflicts.