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With eye on China, Japan invites German warship for naval drill

With eye on China, Japan invites German warship for naval drill

Japan wants Germany to send a warship to East Asia in the new year as it drums up support from like-minded nations against China's hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region.

<a href="https://www.dw.com/en/japan-germany-china-defense-challenges/a-55985940" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">German state-owned broadcaster <em>Deutsche Welle</em></a> reported that in talks between Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and his German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Kishi hoped that a German warship would hold joint exercises with Japan's Self-Defense Forces in 2021.

Kishi suggested that such an act would also ensure the right of passage through the South China Sea (SCS), most of which is now claimed by China. Over years, Japan has voiced for a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), as a large volume of trade goes through the region, particularly energy supplies.

<em>Japan Times</em> reported that Kishi stressed upon the Germans that China is “strengthening its attempts to unilaterally change the status quo with force in the background.” He also welcomed Germany’s efforts to strengthen its maritime presence and contribute to maintaining order in the region.

The defence ministers of the two nations met at a time when <a href="https://indianarrative.com/opinion/after-anti-china-alliances-in-indo-pacific-new-delhi-joins-hands-with-europe-26206.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Germany had expressed interest</a> over sending its navy to patrol the Indian Ocean trade routes. Addressing Australian and German think tanks, Kramp-Karrenbauer had recently said that her country would also like to have closer defence cooperation with Australia.

China has ruffled the feathers of nations in its neighbourhood by laying claim to large parts of the SCS in opposition to the rights of smaller nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, as well as Taiwan. The communist giant has also taken over islands and reefs, often violating the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) by sending fishing trawlers, research and exploration vessels and even Coast Guard ships.

Owing to Chinese belligerence in the strategic region, a number of European nations have espoused interest in protecting the trade routes in the Indo-Pacific. Nations like France, the Netherlands and Germany have already revised their foreign policies towards China and the Indo-Pacific region, which means that the European Union (EU) too will follow suit in the near future.

The UK too is in the process of upgrading its Indo-Pacific outlook. It has already indicated that its <a href="https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/12/6641c518ff97-britain-to-send-aircraft-carrier-strike-group-to-waters-near-japan.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">aircraft carrier strike group Queen Elizabeth</a> is likely to visit the region in January 2021.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been reaching out to ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Indonesia specifically to strengthen economic cooperation and also to garner support for the FOIP – an issue which is close to the Japanese. Japan is active in the four-member Quad comprising India, US, Japan and Australia, whose navies held the Malabar maritime drills in November in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

Japan has been proactive in strengthening relations with like-minded countries, seeking to build alternative supply chains, strengthening defence cooperation and building alliances for rule of law, freedom of navigation and keeping the shipping lanes free and open.