Japan’s Defense Minister Calls for European-Japanese Cooperation on China’s Military Expansion

The European Union (EU) and India held joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Aden from June 18 to 19 as part of their commitment to strengthen cooperation in the field of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, and the EU will also develop an Indo-Pacific strategy in September. To this end, the European Parliament on 17 invited Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi to speak on China’s hegemonic behavior in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi spoke at the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on 17, calling on Europe and Japan to strengthen cooperation against China.

This is the first time that a Japanese defense minister has spoken in the European Parliament, mainly because the European Union is expected to formulate an Indo-Pacific strategy in September, so the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense (SEDE) invited Nobuo Kishi to speak as a reference when formulating the strategy.

Based on China’s hegemonic behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, Nobuo Kishi criticized China’s continued attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas. He noted that China is rapidly expanding its military power, with ballistic missile systems and a defense budget four times higher than Japan’s, and that its strategic intentions are unclear, along with China’s militarization of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, all of which “warrant vigilant observation.”

In his speech, Nobuo Kishi also specifically condemned China’s Maritime Police Law, which came into effect on Feb. 1 of this year and authorizes Chinese maritime police vessels to use force against foreign vessels that Beijing believes are illegally entering its waters. Nobuo Kishi said the law has increased tensions in the East and South China Seas and is “absolutely unacceptable.

On the Taiwan issue, which is seen as a symbol of the U.S.-China confrontation, Nobuo Kishi said, “In recent years, China’s rapid military expansion has tipped the military balance on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in China’s favor, and the gap has tended to widen year by year. “

He expressed his expectation for the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues between China and Taiwan through dialogue, and stressed that the stability of the situation concerning Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community.

Nobuo Kishi also stressed on the South China Sea issue that one-third of the total world trade and about 40 percent of Europe’s foreign trade passes through the South China Sea, and the security of these waters will also directly affect Europe. Japan has always supported the observance of the rule of law and “freedom of navigation and flight” and “security of sea lanes” in the South China Sea, and opposes unilateral activities that exacerbate tensions.

He believes that it is necessary for all parties involved in the South China Sea to work towards the peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to develop relations towards strengthening the “free and open Indo-Pacific vision”.

Nobuo Kishi believes that Japan and the EU must work together to meet the challenge of “competing with authoritarianism” and therefore hopes that the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy will send a strong message to ensure the unshakeable commitment of the EU and its member states to the Indo-Pacific region, including maintaining and expanding their presence in the region.

Fred Debous, a researcher at the French Center for Strategic Studies, noted that Japan’s insistence on China’s military intentions in the European Parliament is also meant to tell Beijing that the expansion of China’s military beyond what is necessary is very worrisome, and that NATO and the EU would only be responding to these provocations by Beijing if they therefore extended their authority to China’s borders.

On the other hand, he said, Japan’s expansion of Asian countries into an Asian NATO would encircle China as if it were the Soviet Union during the Cold War.