Indo-Pacific stability can be enhanced by European engagement

Military officials from France, Japan and the U.S. meet with reporters during joint exercises in Kyushu, in southwestern Japan, on May 15. © AP

NIKKEI – May 19, 2021 13:39 JST

Nations that share democratic values should advance regional cooperation.

Europe is becoming more active in the Indo-Pacific region, aiming to become more involved in a wide range of fields that influence regional stability, including security and trade. This increased activity comes amid China’s maritime expansion.

Greater European participation in the region is certain to enhance the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept led by Japan and the U.S. and supported by, among others, Australia and India. We hope that governments upholding the concept will work closely with Europe to achieve stability in the region.

The European Union adopted the “Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific” at an April meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. This is the first time the EU has laid out a strategic approach to the region, and it plans to finalize more specific measures by September.

In March, the U.K. published the “Integrated Review” — a report on security, defense, development and foreign policy — in which the government made clear its emphasis on diplomacy and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

The growing risk presented by China is the driving force behind Europe’s reassessment of its Asia strategy. Until now, European countries had prioritized relations with Beijing and considered it a partner in solving global issues. However, China has increasingly become a threat to the democratic values Europe supports. 

Europe is instead hoping to win over countries and regions with promising economic growth prospects, such as India and Southeast Asia. The strategy is to step up Europe’s security presence and promote values like democracy, human rights, the rule of law and compliance with international law in these regions, which will determine the future of the international order.

As a demonstration of regional cooperation, the French military on May 11 began training with Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military in Kyushu, in southwestern Japan, for the defense of remote islands. The U.K. and Germany are also planning to conduct joint training by the end of this year, in which the U.K. will dispatch its most advanced aircraft carrier and Germany its frigates to the Indo-Pacific. 

It is significant that countries that share the same values deepen their security and defense cooperation and safeguard the freedom of navigation. We hope these nations will establish a system to ensure safety and order without creating tension.

The U.K.’s invitation to Australia, India and South Korea to the Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in early May is another sign of the policy shift. EU leaders and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual summit on May 8 and agreed to resume free trade negotiations as well as seek closer cooperation in other areas such as climate change and joint infrastructure projects around the world.

European countries are also expected to increase their investment in the region, which could bring them into competition with Japan and other nations. However, there is also room for cooperation in fields like development investment. We hope that fair, rules-based competition will bring further development and prosperity to the region.


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