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Proposed defense partnership cause of offense | Updated: 2024-06-25 19:49
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The protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine has generated prevailing fear in Europe of either the hostilities spiraling out of control, or Russia expanding its "special military operation" to other European countries should it gain the upper hand on the battlefield in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the increasing likelihood of Donald Trump returning to the White House is driving louder calls for boosting independent European defense capacities.

And although European Union member states have begun joint weapons development and production, it is a remedy too slow to address what are perceived to be immediate needs. Given this severe geopolitical climate to European eyes, the EU seeking security and defense industry partnerships with Japan and the Republic of Korea would seem to be a matter of course. From this viewpoint, since intra-NATO resources have largely been mobilized, it is only natural Brussels should look to "like-minded" allies and partners such as Japan and the ROK to bolster the EU's security confidence.

The EU initiative for joint weapons and equipment development and production is attractive to all three. Citing "the most severe and complex security environment since World War II", Tokyo is trying everything possible to break the constraints of its "peace Constitution" and boost its military capabilities. It has signed a treaty to develop a sixth-generation fighter jet with the United Kingdom and Italy. It has jointly developed an advanced fleet-to-air interceptor missile with the United States, and is talking about deeper defense collaboration. It is proactively tightening defense cooperation with the Philippines along with the US and US allies, and proceeding with a joint military technology development project under the framework of AUKUS, the US' "Indo-Pacific" security mechanism with Australia and the UK.

The revival of the military alliance treaty between Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea having angered Seoul, the ROK government, which has until recently treaded cautiously to avoid provoking its northern neighbor, has just announced that it will lift the previous restraints on arms exports to Ukraine. Now, Brussels, too, has its eyes on the ROK as a desirable arms supplier.

From Brussels' perspective, outreach to the two East Asian partners will further facilitate its plan to increase its military presence in the "Indo-Pacific", both under NATO and on its own. Joint arms development will certainly deepen the parties' broader security engagement on global and regional stages.

But as the Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned, the proposed partnership may have very adverse consequences for global and regional peace, as well as for China. As a result of growing geopolitical tensions and threats, the proposed partnership will inevitably further aggravate the tensions in Northeast Asia and throughout the Asia-Pacific.

That will give greater momentum to the vicious circle that has emerged in the region, which will be in no party's interest.

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