NATO is opening its first office in Asia

Briefly: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will open a liaison office in Japan, boosting contact with its four ‘partners’ in the region (Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand). It’ll be NATO’s first office in Asia.

The Western military alliance has been around for 74 years and has plenty of liaison offices already. This latest office, containing one official, won’t open until next year (photocopiers can be a real pain to install). So what’s the big deal?

NATO’s critics (like Russia, China and North Korea) say NATO:

  • is reaching its “tentacles” into Asia
  • is raising the risk of confrontation, and
  • should just stick to its own turf (NATO’s eastern-most member is Turkey, located almost exactly on the opposite side of the world)

For its part, NATO says the new office:

Intrigue’s take: Want to get a sense of how quickly history is moving? Look at NATO’s ‘Strategic Concepts’ (basically its evolving strategy) over the years:

  • NATO started out as a bulwark against communism in post-WWII Europe
  • Then after the Cold War, it focused more on challenges like terrorism
  • In 2010 it didn’t even mention China, and wanted a “partner” in Russia
  • Then in 2022, NATO said China’s “coercive policies” and “opaque military build-up” made it a top security challenge, while post-invasion Russia was now a “direct threat”

The times, they are a changin’.

Also worth noting:

  • NATO’s Article 5 commits its members to defend one another against attack. It’s been invoked once, after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.
  • According to NATO’s Article 10, only European countries are eligible to become members.
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