YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The home of U.S. Forces Japan might host a liaison office that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will reportedly open in the Japanese capital next year, according to a Tokyo-based security expert.

NATO’s plans for the one-person office in Tokyo were reported by Japan’s Nikkei newspaper on Wednesday.

The office will facilitate regular consultations between NATO, Japan and partners in the region such as South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the newspaper reported.

The logical place for the office is at USFJ, according to Brad Glosserman, deputy director and visiting professor at the Center for Rule-Making Strategies at Tama University in Tokyo.

Yokota is also home to the United Nations Command Rear, a subordinate of South Korea-based U.N. Command.

“NATO has been showing deeper interest and greater engagement with the region and Japan has been encouraging and supporting that evolution,” Glosserman said in an email Wednesday.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense and USFJ did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

NATO, traditionally focused on Russia, is grappling with the challenge posed by a rapid Chinese military buildup and the possibility of conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

In addition to the U.S., other NATO members such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France have sent large military contingents to train in the Indo-Pacific in the past year.

NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept document states that Russia is the most significant threat to Allied security.

However, among other threats it lists “China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies; cyberspace; emerging and disruptive technologies; the erosion of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architectures.”

NATO and Japan will work together to deal with cyber threats, disinformation, and emerging and disrupting technologies, according to the Nikkei report. They aim to sign an Individually Tailored Partnership Program before the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 11-12, according to the report, which cites unnamed Japanese and NATO officials.

Japan will attend the Vilnius summit along with leaders from South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the report said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and then-New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended the NATO summit in Madrid last June.

Meanwhile, Japan plans to create an independent mission to NATO, outside an existing mission to the organization at its embassy in Belgium, Nikkei reported.

The plan for the liaison office is a tangible sign of the intensified engagement between NATO and Japan that began last summer when Kishida attended the Madrid Summit, according to Jeff Kingston, a professor of history and Asian studies at Temple University, Japan Campus.

NATO and Japan have boosted their diplomatic engagement as a result of a common threat perception posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the implications for the Indo-Pacific, especially Taiwan, Kingston said in an email Wednesday.

“Putin has triggered moves towards enhanced security cooperation and highlighted the need to prepare for worst case contingencies,” he said. “NATO now will have its first outpost in Asia, linking the European and Indo-Pacific theaters.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now