Japan exhorts EU to augment military presence in Indo-Pacific

New Delhi, Jun 17 (Bureau) Japan on Thursday urged the European Union nations to “visibly increase their military presence” in the Indo-Pacific region, where China is beefing up its military capacity. “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.” Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi told a European Parliament subcommittee on Security and Defence, ahead of a debate on the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. He said Japan and EU nations are faced with a common challenge; unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion.

“In order to tackle the challenge, DM Kishi also emphasized the importance of Japan and EU nations’ confronting them together, sharing common values, and cooperating for maintaining and enhancing the vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” irreversible,” said the Ministry of Defence. 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. The EU is finalising a security strategy on the Indo-Pacific. Kishi in his online speech said 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 neighbours.

He said safety of the South China Sea is vital to European countries as well, because a third of world trade and some 40 per cent of European countries’ external trade go through the sea area. India also on Wednesday called for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying that New Delhi supports freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded commerce in the international waterways, including the South China Sea. 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. 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.