By MARI YAMAGUCHI – Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese and NATO officials agreed on Tuesday to step up military cooperation and joint exercises, as they shared concerns that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is leading to a deterioration of the security environment in Europe and Asia.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at the start of his meeting with the head of the NATO Military Committee, Rob Bauer, that Japan hoped to strengthen its ties with European countries and welcomed the expanded involvement of NATO in the Indo-Pacific region.
“The security of Europe and Asia are closely linked, especially now that the international community is facing serious challenges,” Kishi said.
Bauer’s visit to Tokyo comes as Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force is taking part in NATO naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea.
Later on Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet approved an annual policy plan that calls for a drastic boost in defense capabilities and spending within five years, citing rising tensions involving Taiwan and the commitment of members of the NATO to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defence. — twice as much as Japan’s current military spending, which amounts to just over 1% of GDP.
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The plan calls for pre-emptive strike capabilities as well as the development and strengthening of space, cybernetic and electromagnetic defense and unmanned weapons – a major shift that critics say goes beyond the self-defense principle of the Japan.
Kishida, in a meeting with US President Joe Biden last month, expressed his determination to boost Japan’s defense capabilities and spending. The policy document, the first under Kishida’s eight-month-old government, also covers economic security, energy and other key issues.
Japan has increased its military capabilities and cooperation with Europe, in addition to its alliance with the United States and its partnerships with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, in the face of rising power of China.
On Tuesday, Japanese and American warplanes conducted joint flight exercises over the Sea of Japan “in an increasingly severe security environment, such as repeated ballistic missile launches from North Korea”, it said. announced the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
The joint exercise, which involved four Japanese F-15 and two American F-16 fighter jets, aimed to demonstrate “the strong commitment and close cooperation of the two armies to respond to any emergency, while further strengthening the strong covenant,” he said. .
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been invited to the NATO summit later this month and is reportedly considering attending the meeting, which would make him the first Japanese leader to do so.
In May, Japanese Chief of Staff Koji Yamazaki attended a meeting of NATO counterparts in Belgium for the first time.
Bauer hailed their increased engagement in addressing “shared security challenges.”
Japan quickly joined the United States and Europe in imposing sanctions on Russia and providing support for Ukraine, saying the crisis not only affects Europe but could also further embolden China. to increase its affirmation in the Indo-Pacific.
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