NATO Deepens Ties with Asia Pacific Partners, Rankling China and North Korea

NATO is set to strengthen its Asia Pacific engagement through the signing of four Individually Tailored Partnership Programmes (ITPPs) with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea, a regional grouping known as the ‘AP4.’ The ITPPs are designed to deepen co-operation on issues like cybersecurity, climate change, disinformation, and space. NATO has proposed establishing a liaison office in Tokyo to facilitate the ITPPs.

Beyond the Atlantic — and into the Pacific

In its 2022 Strategic Concept, NATO stated that China’s “ambitions and coercive policies” challenged the bloc’s interests, security, and values, while earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned North Korea's failed satellite launch, demanding the country "cease these provocative actions.”

It is unsurprising, then, that both China and North Korea have criticized NATO’s push into Asia, arguing that such military blocs do not have a place in the region. NATO claims that as the balance of power shifts and threats become more globalized, the bloc must deepen its relationship with the AP4.

NATO member France has warned that the Tokyo liaison office could send the wrong message not only to China but to ASEAN member states that wish to remain neutral. Decisions within NATO are based on consensus and to gain approval from Paris, NATO is proposing that the office be set up merely to facilitate the ITPPs.

What’s at stake?

NATO has more than 40 partner countries globally and has announced that similar ITPPs will be drafted when renewing these partnerships.

Several countries have scaled up their foreign policy commitments in the Asia Pacific in recent years as the region becomes a crucial geopolitical theatre. In 2022, Canada and the U.S. released their respective regional strategies and made multiple high-level visits to the region, with both countries seeking to deepen ties on a range of issues.