Japan seeks greater EU military presence in Asia amid China's aggression

Kyodo News

Posted at Jun 17 2021 08:20 PM

Japan seeks greater EU military presence in Asia amid China's aggression 1
Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, September 16, 2020. Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters/File

TOKYO - Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told a European Parliament subcommittee Thursday he expects EU member states to "visibly increase their military presence" in the Indo-Pacific region, where China is boosting its clout.

In an online speech to the parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defence, Kishi said, "We strongly hope that a strong message will be included (in an EU strategy) to secure the EU and its member states' unwavering commitment to the Indo-Pacific region."

The remarks by Kishi, the first Japanese defense minister to speak at the parliament, suggest Tokyo's wish to have its view reflected in the detailed strategy on the Indo-Pacific which the European Union plans to draw up by September, according to the Defense Ministry.

In April, the EU adopted a document on the planned strategy, in which the 27-member bloc pledged to play a more active role in promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the speech, Kishi noted Japan has opposed China's unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China seas, where Beijing is engaged in territorial disputes with its neighbors, including Tokyo.

The Japanese minister also said safety of the South China Sea is vital to European countries as well, because a third of world trade and some 40 percent of European countries' external trade go through the sea area.

Kishi criticized a Chinese law implemented in February that allows China's coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships Beijing sees as illegally entering its waters, saying heightened tensions in the East and South China seas because of the law are "unacceptable."

As China increases its military pressure on Taiwan, Kishi said Japan expects a "peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues" through dialogue. China regards the democratic island as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.

Among EU members, France, Germany and the Netherlands have already adopted their own Indo-Pacific policies. Outside the EU, Britain also said in its March defense and foreign policy review that it will be "deeply engaged" in the region.

Britain's aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group, as well as a frigate from the Netherlands, last month embarked on a seven-month voyage to the Indo-Pacific region. Germany has also said it plans to send a frigate to the area.

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