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NATO moves should make Asian poor worry

Japan and South Korea toeing its line is a major loss for the continent where millions still live without basic facilities
US President Joe Biden (second from left) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minster Fumio Kishida (left) next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (second from right) and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) at an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12

US President Joe Biden (second from left) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minster Fumio Kishida (left) next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (second from right) and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) at an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 17, 2023 04:10 AM GMT
Updated: August 17, 2023 05:27 AM GMT

Brussels-based NATO has explicitly shown its interest in Asia since 2022 as part of the US burden-sharing strategy against China. The world’s most populous Asian nation became a major discussion point at the military alliance's summit this year too.

The July conclave took place in Vilnius in Lithuania and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol attended it for a second year in a row, despite the two East Asian nations' bloody history.

Though NATO lost its raison d’être when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, it invented a new reason to flex its muscles, which finally began to involve Asia’s geopolitics with the Madrid summit in 2022.

Though the abbreviation ‘NATO’ stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military grouping openly admitted that it is also interested in the Indo-Pacific when it unveiled the 2022 Strategic Concept, which outlined the alliance’s values, purpose and role.

In Madrid, NATO for the first time named China as a major threat to its security, interests and values and specifically addressed the growing ties between China and Russia, which, according to NATO, threatens its established rules-based order.

If the Madrid summit helped Japan and South Korea showcase their support for NATO’s Ukraine policy, the Vilnius meeting assessed the progress they have made in the military alliance’s confrontational role for world domination within one year.

The Vilnius summit revealed that it could ultimately result in an arms race in Asia, giving credence to critics’ allegations that the NATO bloc is war-addicted.

“To have the necessary capabilities, the alliance requires a strong and capable defense industry, with resilient supply chains,” the heads of state and governments participating in the summit said in a communiqué on July 11.

So, members once again promised to hike their defense expenditure.

As demanded by NATO, Japan, the second largest economy in Asia, will hike its defense spending by 2 percent of GDP by 2027, making it the nation with the third largest defense budget in the world.

The idea of NATO setting up a liaison office in Japan was first mooted by Kishida. The planned one-person station will conduct periodic consultations with other regional NATO "partners" like Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

South Korea has its military presence already felt in NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine. It has inked deals to supply hundreds of tanks, aircraft and other weapons to NATO member Poland since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.

President Yoon, however, has said a South Korean law forbids supplying weapons to countries engaged in conflict. So, it is difficult to send arms directly to Ukraine.

Both Japan and South Korea have publicly expressed their desire to host nuclear weapons on their soil just like US nuclear weapons are stored currently in NATO member nations, sometimes mounted on missiles for rapid loading to air bases all over Europe.

Their collaboration with NATO will concern cyber security, climate change, outer space, maritime security, and disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence, with the aim to improve “interoperability”— the ability of different military forces to work together.

Their current status in NATO complements other regional military pacts like AUKUS, involving the US, Australia and the United Kingdom, and the Quad, comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia.

Some Asian media would argue that the US pushed for NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine as a prelude to waging one on China later. Knowing that Europe has close economic ties with Russia, the US made a resolute move to prise Europe away from Russia.

But NATO has hardly any history of winning a war for that matter. Its recent military escapades in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan have proved disastrous and not people-friendly.

Currently, it has cut a sorry figure in its efforts to reduce the Russian “ruble to rubble” and to push the Russian economy “back to the Stone Age” despite billions in military assistance.

The Catholic Church and the Vatican banked on Japan and South Korea spearheading its global anti-war crusade.  Pope Francis visited South Korea a year after his papacy started in 2013.

In fact, the Church made great strides in bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula and Korean Catholic president Moon Jae-in met Pope Francis in October 2018 and in October 2021.

During his first meeting with the pope, Moon shared a message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: "Please come to North Korea."

For decades, the pope and the Vatican used to look to Japan in its global campaign against the use of nuclear arms. The Argentinian pope visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima, besides Tokyo in 2019, and made a passionate call against the possession and use of nuclear arms.

Japan and South Korea toeing NATO’s line is a major loss for Asia where millions still continue to live without basic facilities and when economic prosperity is knocking on its door for the first time after centuries of colonial subjugation.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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