Why Is Japan’s Prime Minister Attending the NATO Summit?

June 16, 2022 Topic: Japan Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: JapanNATORussia-Ukraine WarChinaTaiwan

Why Is Japan’s Prime Minister Attending the NATO Summit?

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida will emphasize that disturbances in Europe have consequences in Asia.


Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida announced Wednesday that he would attend the annual NATO summit in Madrid from June 28 to June 30, marking the first time a Japanese leader will be present at the trans-Atlantic military alliance’s most important meeting.

The upcoming military summit, usually a routine affair, has received renewed attention due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and NATO’s subsequent military assistance to Kyiv. The invasion, which the Kremlin has insisted represents a “special military operation” rather than a war, has prompted Sweden and Finland, two historically neutral countries in northern Europe, to join the alliance. Both nations plan to send delegations to the summit. Also in attendance will be South Korea’s new prime minister, Yoon Suk-yeol, whose foreign policy positions align closely with those of the United States.


Although NATO is a nominally “Atlantic” alliance and Japan and South Korea are not members, both countries are key partners of the United States in Asia. Both Tokyo and Seoul have condemned the Russian invasion and participated in the U.S.- and EU-led international sanctions against Moscow, although neither country depends on Russian hydrocarbon resources to the same extent as Europe, lessening the impact of economic measures.

Japan is also a member of the Group of Seven, or G7, alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy—all of which are members of NATO. Russia was formerly a member of the group, then known as the “G8,” until it was expelled after its initial invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Kishida told reporters that his presence at the alliance’s meeting would “test … Japan’s diplomatic capabilities.” He also suggested that he intended to highlight the interconnected nature of global security, emphasizing that disturbances in Europe had consequences in Asia.

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s increasing force posture towards Taiwan, the de facto independent island it claims as a province, Kishida has pledged a substantial increase in Japanese defense spending to strengthen the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Although Article IX of Japan’s constitution forbids it from

engaging in armed conflicts, Tokyo has nonetheless remained active in Asian security affairs, most notably as a member of the “Quad,” its informal security pact with the United States, Australia, and India.

Kishida was also a keynote speaker at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore on Friday, where he ominously warned that with escalating military tensions near Taiwan, Korea, and the South China Sea, “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.”

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.