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Asian Security & Warfare

Japan-NATO Partnership


In 2007, Abe Shinzo became Japan’s first Prime Minister (PM) to address NATO’s North Atlantic Council. In 2013, Japan and NATO signed a Joint Political Declaration, and in 2014, adopted the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP), the framework of implementation for the cooperation.1 These steps confirmed shared strategic interests – despite geographic distances and different regional security outlooks – and the political willingness to act upon them. They highlighted the intention to promote a rule-based international order, with maritime security as a priority for military and political cooperation.2 In September 2014, Japan and NATO took a first step in this direction conducting their first joint maritime exercise.

In 2009, the first Japanese naval and air deployments alongside NATO and EU units in the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden had already showcased the changing nature of the relationship. Looking beyond this mission, four key questions unfold from the present and future impact of this relationship on the evolving international security landscape:

  • Is an enhanced Japan-NATO relationship bound to last?
  • If so, how will this relationship advance Japan’s interaction with Europe?
  • How will NATO’s closer cooperation with Japan affect security in the Asia-Pacific, and therelationship that both NATO and Japan entertain with China?
  • How will stronger Japan-NATO ties benefit Japan’s relationship with the United States and contribute to redefine NATO’s contribution to international security?

In the realm of maritime security affairs, this relationship raises some additional specific questions:

  • In what ways can the Japan-NATO partnership favour the stability of the maritime commons?
  • How should the cooperation develop beyond the boundaries of the Gulf of Aden?
  • How will the cooperation contribute to address the challenge faced by both Japan and NATO in different maritime theatres?
  • What are the prospects of improving interoperability? 

This project will engage with the above questions. It aims to bring together scholars and practitioners in Europe, North America, and Japan – military and civilians – to investigate the content, scope, and purpose of the Japan-NATO partnership. 

The project is funded by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF), Japan.

Download Dr Alessio Patalano's article for the RUSI Journal on the 'Japan-NATO Partnership and the Security of the Maritime Commons'

'natural partners' in challenging waters?download 
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