Germany expanding military presence in Indo-Pacific shows its defense policy is 'kidnapped by US, NATO'
Published: Sep 01, 2022 08:59 PM
German defense chief General Eberhard Zorn Photo:AFP

German defense chief General Eberhard Zorn Photo:AFP


Germany's defense chief has vowed to expand the country's military presence in the Indo-Pacific while keeping an eye on the "enormous" build-up of China's armed forces. Some Chinese experts believe that the current German government's aggressive defense policy is a sharp contrast with "the culture of restraint" in the Merkel era, showing that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's policies have been kidnapped by the US and NATO. 

German defense chief General Eberhard Zorn told Reuters that the country will expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific by sending more warships, and is joining other Western nations in showing more muscle in the region amid "growing alarm over Beijing's territorial ambitions." 

Zorn was quoted as saying in the media report on Thursday that the Bundeswehr, a catch-all term in German incorporating the army, navy and air force, planned on sending troops to participate in training exercises in Australia next year, and the navy would send a fleet of several more ships to the region in 2024. 

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a routine press conference on Thursday that the German defense chief's public declaration of increasing its military presence in other parts of the world will probably not sit well with many countries. China firmly pursues a defensive national military policy, and its military development aims to justifiably safeguard national security interests, Wang noted.

China always respects the freedom of navigation and flight enjoyed by international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and firmly opposes any country's excuse for undermining China's sovereignty, endangering China's security and smearing China, he said. 

Most recently, Germany sent a record number of 13 military aircraft to join the ongoing Exercise Pitch Black 2022, a military drill involving the US, Australia and 15 other countries, which is seen as a collective effort led by Washington in order to form an anti-China frontline and to pressure China over the Taiwan question. 

Some major German media outlets voiced concern earlier over Germany's participation in such military drills for the first time, warning that Berlin is joining an anti-China alliance in the Indo-Pacific, which in the long term will affect its trade relations with Beijing.

"Germany's military capabilities are very limited in terms of air force, navy and far-sea delivery capabilities. Even if it comes to the Indo-Pacific region, it will take a long cycle to improve its capabilities," Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Song believed that Germany's increasingly aggressive rhetoric in defense policy illustrated that the government's policies are being kidnapped by right-wing circles and the US as well as NATO, but fundamentally, Germany will not see China as a major rival or enemy, Song said. 

Berlin apparently shifting its military focus toward the Indo-Pacific drew concerns of some Chinese experts over the possible impact on China-Germany ties, especially as Scholz's approach has inched away from his predecessor Angela Merkel's restraint and pacifism in terms of defense policy. 

The three-party coalition has made the Scholz governance a weak one, and apart from Scholz's, the two other parties have some aggressive ideas in their defense policies, making the German government's defense policy lean toward the US and NATO, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"To coordinate with the US, the Scholz government has to increase its presence and influence in the Indo-Pacific region as a major European power. Also, the EU exerts a certain impact on its policies," he said, noting that the shift in Berlin's defense approach also underscores the concept of shared defense responsibilities within NATO. 

While Germany reviews its strategy on China and will make the new posture public sometime in 2023, some Chinese experts warned that Berlin should not be dragged into Washington's anti-China bloc, as opposing Russia and China at the same time would lead to catastrophic results for Germany. 

"We should remain cautiously optimistic on China-Germany ties, and there's no need to be too pessimistic given the high degree of complementarity between the two sides' economies, as such resilience overrides political ideas and differences in ideologies," Zhao said. 

A major focus for Germany now is still Russia, and Berlin has no capability or responsibility to interfere in Indo-Pacific affairs, Song said, noting that as Germany treats China as an important trading partner, increasing its military presence in the region is not a smart choice.