NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left), shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Jan 31, 2023, in Tokyo. (PHOTO / AP)
French officials have restated the country's lack of support for the idea of the NATO military alliance opening a liaison office in Japan, which would be its first outpost in Asia.
The prospect had been mentioned recently by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said there had been a "request" from an unnamed country for the establishment of a NATO office, "and we're looking into the possibility of establishing the office".
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a recent speech: "If… we push NATO to enlarge the spectrum and the geography, we will make a big mistake."
The attitude of the majority of countries in the region is very clear. They oppose the emergence of military blocs in the region. They don't welcome NATO's outreach in Asia. They don't want a replica of bloc confrontation in Asia.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson
He is also believed to be unhappy about the idea being made public before NATO members had discussed it, and now the Agence France-Presse news agency has quoted an unnamed official as saying it would not be a wise move.
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"NATO (stands for) North Atlantic, and both article V and article VI (in its statutes) clearly limit the scope to North Atlantic," said a French official, asking not to be named.
"There is no NATO liaison office in any country in the region. If NATO needs situational awareness in the region, it can use the embassies designated as point of contact," added the official, reacting to an article first published in the Financial Times.
The NATO presence being planned in Japan would require the unanimous support of NATO's decision-making arm, the North Atlantic Council, of which France is a member, to go ahead, according to media reports.
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday in a regular news conference: "Asia lies beyond the geographical scope of the North Atlantic… However, we have seen NATO bent on going east into this region, interfering in regional affairs and inciting bloc confrontation.
"The attitude of the majority of countries in the region is very clear. They oppose the emergence of military blocs in the region. They don't welcome NATO's outreach in Asia. They don't want a replica of bloc confrontation in Asia."
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When asked at a news conference what he thought about the reported objections from France, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno replied, "Various considerations are underway within NATO. At this point, I will refrain from commenting with prejudgment."
Agencies contributed to this story.