VILNIUS: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and NATO on Wednesday adopted a document laying out the main areas of cooperation in the years ahead, recognising the escalating attempts by China and Russia to undermine the existing rules-based international order, reports Kyodo News.
During a meeting in Vilnius with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Kishida agreed to joint efforts under a new programme in 16 areas, ranging from maritime security and outer space to cyberspace and disinformation.
The initiative covers the next four years through 2026, with the number of priority areas for cooperation between them increased from the nine in the previous lower-level document, the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program, revised in 2020.
The new version added such areas as destructive emerging technologies, interoperability and climate change.
No other partner is closer to NATO than Japan, Stoltenberg told Kishida before beginning the meeting, pointing out that the trans-Atlantic alliance is concerned about China's heavy military buildup and North Korea's nuclear and missile development programmes.
Kishida said Japan wants to deepen cooperation with NATO as both sides share fundamental values and strategic interests, as well as the view that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion will not be tolerated regardless of where in the world.
Kishida and his counterparts from Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have been invited to join discussions with NATO leaders in the Lithuanian capital.
Kishida, who became the first Japanese leader to participate in a NATO summit in June 2022 in Spain, has said since the early days of the war in Ukraine that the security of the Indo-Pacific is indivisible from that of Europe.
After the meeting with Kishida early Wednesday morning, Stoltenberg hosted a leaders' session with the four countries, known as the trans-Atlantic alliance's Asia-Pacific partners or the AP4.
The session was also joined by Sweden, which is on course to become NATO's 32nd member, and the European Union.
Officials involved in preparing the meetings said earlier that the leaders would not discuss the idea of setting up a liaison office in Tokyo to facilitate coordination between NATO and the AP4.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that although the move has been sought by NATO, France and some other countries were opposed to it, airing concerns about the bloc defying its charter by going too far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area and the possibility of fueling further tensions with China.