Participation of Japan and South Korea to Upcoming NATO Summit

Sevinç İrem BALCI

The next Leaders’ Summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be held in Madrid, the capital of Spain on 28-29 June 2022. The Summit meetings are not regular meetings, they are generally held for introducing new policies, inviting new members into the Alliance, launch major initiatives and reinforce partnerships. This year’s summit is focused on Russian-Ukrainian Crisis, related with that issue, full-membership of Finland and Sweden to the Alliance. Also, the other issues are on the agenda, such as China’s growing influence and assertiveness or the security consequences of climate change.

As well as China’s position is in the agenda, in this summit there will be an important participation, that Japan for the first time will attend to the summit. It should be noted that, in April 2022, NATO members has agreed upon bolstering relations with Asia-Pacific partners, namely Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, as their neighboring rival, China failed to condemn Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.

On June 15, 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has declared that he will attend NATO’s Madrid Summit, as South Korea will do, as observers. The two countries will participate the Summit for the first time in their history. Therefore, it is quite important for the power balance in the region. There will be indirect way of showing China vs. NATO in the Asia-Pacific, noting that the United States (US) is quite an important agent in the NATO, and has strategic plans on the Asia/Indo-Pacific.

So why the participation of Japan and South Korea is important? It is important for Tokyo and Seoul, that Japan and Russia are embroiled in territorial disputes and share a marine boundary. Seoul’s ongoing security concerns stem from the Kremlin’s longstanding support of North Korea.

Also, the ultimate aim for Japan is to balance her ties with China. Kishida emphasized the value of “discussing areas of concern, finding common ground, and working on such things with Beijing” at a press conference. He added that “As the only Asian country in the G7, Japan’s diplomatic capabilities are being tested.”

Moreover, we should consider the current bilateral relations with Japan and South Korea. As it is known, during the Moon Jae In administration, ties between Japan and Korea have been tense. It could be expected that under NATO umbrella, the relations between Seoul and Tokyo can be improved. The words of Kishida, claiming that “Given the difficult security situation in East Asia, Japan’s strategic relationship with the United States and South Korea is of the utmost importance. It’s unthinkable to just allow Japan-Korean relations to stay as they are.” is proving that thesis.

Another development regarding South Korea is that the establishment of mission the NATO in Brussels. According to a second presidential official, the South Korean ambassador to Belgium, who also serves as the country’s envoy to the European Union (EU), would serve as the leader of the new NATO mission. Yoon may convene a trilateral summit alongside Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, and Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, outside of the NATO meeting.

In conclusion, Japan’s and South Korea’s participation to the Madrid Summit is quite significant development for the region and international politics. China and Russia, who are strategic partners now, are seen as a threat for the West, as well as the states in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, cooperation of significant Asia-Pacific countries with NATO is critical on balancing power in the international area.

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