**Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Aims to Strengthen Political Ties with South Korea and Japan**
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has started a four-day tour in Asia this weekend, visiting South Korea and Japan in an effort to strengthen political ties with the two allies and address military threats from China and North Korea.
On Sunday, Stoltenberg was received by senior South Korean officials in Seoul, where he had words about “reckless nuclear and missile programs” by North Korea. Later in the week, the NATO chief is expected to hold further security talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other officials in Tokyo.
In the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Barack Obama, described the tour as a “reaffirmation” trip for the allies. It is seen as an important step because, last year, the leaders of Japan and South Korea expressed great concern regarding the challenges in East Asia.
The recent tense situation in Asia has made rapprochement with NATO “a necessary military strategy” for both countries, according to Professor Ramón Pacheco Pardo, speaking to DW. “Both Japan and South Korea have said that security in Europe is tied to Asia, given Russia’s close ties to China and North Korea,” he said.
Beijing and Pyongyang, in the other hand, were critical of Stoltenberg’s visit, claiming it’s a “prelude to confrontation and war” bringing the “dark clouds of a new Cold War” to the region. Townsend dismissed these remarks, and instead encouraged NATO’s relationship with Japan and South Korea: “But for NATO, this trip is nothing more than a way to reassure South Korea and Japan, to let them know that they have friends in Europe and in the United States who care for the safety of this part of Asia,” he said.