Does It Have Anything to Do With Ukraine?On May 10, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told CNN that Tokyo is in talks to open a NATO liaison which would be the first of its kind in Asia. “We are already in discussions, but no details (have been) finalized yet,” the Japanese official said.Earlier this week, Japanese Ambassador to the US Koji Tomita told reporters that the country was “working” towards opening such an office but provided no details.Tokyo has recently bolstered its partnership with NATO, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida becoming the first Japanese leader to attend a NATO summit in June 2022. From April 24 to 26, 2023, a military delegation from NATO’s Cooperative Security Division (CS), led by Lieutenant General Francesco Diella, traveled to Japan to meet the nation’s senior military representatives and discuss the ongoing cooperation and opportunities to strengthen military ties.
"These are our first military staff talks in Japan after the pandemic and I have seen firsthand that what happens in Europe matters to you, just as what happens in the Indo-Pacific region matters to NATO," Diella told her Japanese hosts, led by Major General Minamikawa Nobutaka. "Your support to Ukraine has been significant, demonstrating your engagement as a security provider on a global scale."AsiaJapan Seeking to Open ‘NATO Liaison Office’ as West Seeks Chinese Encirclement04:00 GMTIt’s no coincidence that Tokyo and Washington have repeated over and over that their increasing military cooperation is caused by Ukrainian affairs even though it has nothing to do with the Asia-Pacific region, according to Brown.
"'Ukraine affects directly the situation here in the Pacific' is kind of an ironic Freudian slip because obviously the NATO plan in Ukraine to try to destroy Russia is being directly projected onto Taiwan and using Japan and South Korea as members of NATO," Brown said. "So in the West, you have NATO and you have Ukraine, you have Russia, Ukraine is the proxy, and the United States is using Europe as a vassal, basically a vassal or a slave to help the United States. Western imperial global capitalism tried to destroy Russia. They are now going to try to do the exact same thing in Asia."By linking the Pacific and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe, the Japanese officials are basically confirming that “NATO will use Taiwan as a proxy against China, Russia and the DPRK, and that Japan and South Korea will play the role of Western Europe as vassals to attack the DPRK, China and Russia in Asia,” suggested Brown. “So it’s the same playbook. It’s just a different region of the world,” he stressed.
"It has nothing to do with Ukraine and everything to do with the rise of China, which the US opposes," Dr. Scott Burchill, honorary fellow in international relations at Deakin University and author of The National Interest in International Relations Theory and Misunderstanding International Relations, told Sputnik, echoing Brown. "It is designed to antagonize Beijing and I suspect it will. Its purpose is to ensure Washington’s control over the military strategies of its friends and allies in the region."AsiaJapan-South Korea Rapprochement Aids US Pacific Policy vs China and DPRK8 May, 15:49 GMT
Japanese Militarism Fanned by US & NATOIn December 2022, the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government approved three policy documents – the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy and the Defense Buildup Program – which envisaged doubling the nation’s defense expenditures within the next five years. The new funding, amounting to roughly $320 billion, is set to ensure Japan’s largest military build-up since the Second World War.Even though Tokyo’s post-WW2 security policy was regarded as largely pacifist, the Japanese government has decided to revise it citing changes in international and regional security environment and referring to its longstanding ally, the US, who expects that Tokyo would use its “national strength” to protect the “post-war international order.”According to Sputnik’s interlocutors, it’s the US-led NATO bloc that is behind Japan’s recent militarization. In particular, Burchill has drawn attention to the fact that the militarization trend followed NATO’s post-Cold War expansion.
"NATO has conducted 'out of area operations' for a number of years: the attacks on Serbia (1999) and Libya (2011) being the best-known examples," Burchill said. "More recently via what has been called Washington's 'hub and spokes' alliances throughout East Asia (Japan) to the Asia-Pacific (Australia), NATO is effectively being spread to East Asia in order to encircle and contain China."“Establishing offices in Japan, rotating US marines through northern Australia (Darwin,) and basing nuclear-armed B52 bombers in South Korea consolidates this expansion: it is effectively the other side of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, this time in the Asia-Pacific,” the scholar continued.AnalysisJapan Reverts to Militarism as US Prepares to Use Tokyo Against China, Scholars Warn19 January, 12:35 GMTBurchill noted that AUKUS – a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the US – and the Quad – a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US – have a similar purpose.”To describe any of them as bringing greater stability to the region is nonsense,” remarked the scholar. “It will achieve precisely the opposite by encouraging an arms race in the hemisphere.”In addition to deterring China, NATO’s expansion in the Asia Pacific puts immediate pressure on Russia and its eastern flank, according to Brown. “Japan and Russia have boundary disputes going back to the end of World War II and then, of course, the big kahuna, as we say, for the NATO office in Japan, is to put pressure on China for Taiwan and the South China Sea,” he noted.Besides Japan, NATO has stepped up its military cooperation with South Korea and the Philippines also. Last month over 12,000 American, 5,000 Philippine and 111 Australian soldiers took part in the largest “Balikatan” joint military exercises to date in waters across the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Philippine and US defense and foreign secretaries also discussed the development of nine Philippine military camps, where American troops would be staying indefinitely. By establishing strongholds and surveillance outposts in the northern Philippines and western Philippine provinces, Washington would be able to extend its control to the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, international experts have claimed.Asia’New Era of Cooperation’: Xi Jinping to Chair China-Central Asia Summit9 May, 12:10 GMT
China is Well Aware of US Military PlansBeijing has been closely watching Washington’s hostile activities in the Asia Pacific region and beyond for quite a while, according to Brown.”China has been preparing to be attacked by the United States,” Brown said. “We can go back to at least 1999 when the United States bombed Serbia for 100 days with depleted uranium and intentionally bombed the Chinese Embassy. China, of course, has been watching very carefully the events in the interim: Putin coming into power in 2000, getting Russia out of the clutches of western imperial global capitalism to regain Russia’s independence.” “[In] 2014, Maidan [happened in Ukraine]. China has, of course, been following all of this very, very closely. And I would need you to go back to 2011 with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s pivot to Asia. That was basically a declaration of war. All of the continued aggression in the South China Sea with the United States’ and NATO’s navies challenging China’s presence in the South China Sea. This has been going on for a long time,” the scholar continued.Nonetheless, the opening of the NATO liaison office in Tokyo would not trigger a tough reaction from China, despite the latter being obviously concerned about the development, according to Dr. Zhang Baohui, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
"China will be very unhappy of course," Dr. Zhang told Sputnik. "However, as long as NATO does not take the next step, i.e., pursuing concrete military cooperation with Japan, China should be expected to have a low-key reaction to this development."Given that regional matters are presently largely revolving around Taiwan, seen by Beijing as its inalienable territory, a lot depends on who will win during the general elections on the island in January 2024. International observers don’t rule out that the pro-US Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) may lose in the forthcoming elections and cede power to the more balanced Kuomintang (KMT), the nationalist party interested in mending fences with Beijing. Prior to the elections, the Pentagon signaled willingness to speed-up weapons deliveries to the island. Meanwhile, Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that the People’s Republic will pursue peaceful means in regional affairs, including re-unification with the Taiwan island.