France is unenthusiastic about a proposal for NATO to open a liaison office in Japan, an official said on Tuesday, adding the move would take the alliance away from its prime region of focus.
There have been suggestions, alluded to most recently by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, for the opening of the office in Tokyo in response to the growing challenge posed by China.
“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.
NATO, designed as a transatlantic security organisation against the Soviet-era Communist bloc, is trying to define its role in the face of the rise of Beijing while also supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion.
Stoltenberg said last week that “what happens in Asia matters for Europe and what happens in Europe matters for Asia, and therefore it is even more important that NATO allies are strengthening our partnership with our Indo Pacific partners.”
Without saying specifically where, he noted there had been a “request” to have a NATO liaison office “and we’re looking into the possibility of establishing the office.”
The FT said President Emmanuel Macron had personally objected to the idea. At a conference last week, he warned that expanding NATO’s geography would be a “big mistake”.
French officials are also unhappy that the issue appeared in the press before there were full consultations between NATO members.
Macron earlier this year made a high-profile state visit to boost relations with China under President Xi Jinping, controversially suggesting afterwards that Europe should keep a distance from China-US tensions over Taiwan.