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Japan working towards opening of NATO liaison office in Tokyo

2023-05-09T14:57:06Z

U.S. President Joe Biden is seen through a window being embraced by Japan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Tomita Koji before signing a book of condolence in memory of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was fatally shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, during a visit to the ambassador’s residence in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Japan is working towards the opening of a NATO liaison office in Tokyo, Japan’s ambassador to the U.S. Koji Tomita said on Tuesday.

Tomita made the comment at an event hosted by the National Press Club in Washington when asked about a report in the Nikkei Asia this month saying that the U.S.-led alliance was planning to open such an office, its first in Asia, to facilitate consultations in the region.

“The point you mentioned is one of the things that we are working on to strengthen our partnership. But I really haven’t heard any final confirmation of that, but we are working in that direction,” he said.

NATO has not confirmed the Nikkei report, saying it would not go into details of NATO allies’ ongoing deliberations.

Tomita, who was briefing on the G7 summit Japan will host in Hiroshima from May 19-21, said the meeting would be looking for closer alignment of the group’s approach towards China.

Nikkei Asia said the liaison office was due to open next year and would enable discussions with NATO’s security partners, such as South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, with geopolitical challenges from China and Russia in mind.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg visited Japan in January and pledged with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to strengthen ties in the face off “historic” security challenges, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s rising military power.

After the Nikkei Asia report, China said “high vigilance” was needed in the face of NATO’s “eastward expansion.”