Indo-Pacific not North Atlantic, Macron asserts in defiance of Washington
Published: Jul 14, 2023 12:56 AM
France's President Emmanuel Macron gives a press conference during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. Photo: VCG

France's President Emmanuel Macron gives a press conference during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. Photo: VCG

On the issue of opposing NATO's opening of a liaison office in Tokyo, French President Emmanuel Macron's attitude is firm and clear. "Whatever people say, geography is stubborn. The Indo-Pacific is not the North Atlantic," he told journalists after the NATO summit. He also said that while he believes NATO should have partners in other regions, it should not be forgotten that "NATO means North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

According to media reports, at a ceremony at the NATO summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was the first to give a speech, and then US President Joe Biden praised Japan's contribution to European security issues in his speech. At that time, Macron happened to be standing next to Kishida, and Macron was photographed looking up several times. Some commented that he was "impatient."

Nonetheless, as the main driver behind the opening of a liaison office in Tokyo, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is not willing to see the plan stillborn. On Wednesday, he said, "the issue of the liaison office is still on the table. It will be considered in the future." In his closing remarks, he said "we see how China is coming closer to us" and that the rise of China is part of the global challenges. He also talked about "China's heavy investment in new military capabilities… We expect that China by 2035 will have 1,500 nuclear warheads on missiles that can reach North America and the whole of Europe, NATO territory." Earlier, he claimed that "China's stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values."

The NATO secretary general is usually a European, but the US has a decisive influence on the selection, so the NATO secretary general is bound to be pro-American. Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, is one such loyal American servant. In pulling NATO to expand its influence in Asia, Stoltenberg played a key role, strongly advocating that "NATO is a regional alliance, but we face global challenges."

"We're breaking down barriers between America's Atlantic allies and America's Pacific allies to look at common challenges like cybersecurity, emerging and disruptive technology, and maritime security," US Permanent Representative to NATO Julianne Smith said during the NATO summit in Vilnius. "There's a whole array of issues where we can learn from one another without bringing anyone from the Indo-Pacific formally into the alliance."

Smith's words were not very clear, but Stoltenberg's attitude of promoting NATO's expansion into China's neighborhood is more explicit. Japan and South Korea are very eager to strengthen relations with NATO, and they signed Individually Tailored Partnership Programs (ITPPs) with NATO at the Vilnius summit. Among them, South Korea agreed on the expansion of military intelligence sharing and cooperation in 11 areas such as cyber security and emerging technologies.

Can Macron block out the conspiracy between the US and Stoltenberg to lead NATO toward the Indo-Pacific? I don't know. But what can be understood is that Macron is making the call on the moral high ground. He has pinpointed the vulnerabilities of Washington and Stoltenberg and raised the "banner of justice" representing Europe's fundamental interests, thus immediately putting Stoltenberg in check. The latter said that the matter of the Tokyo office is still "under discussion," clearly lacking conviction. Neither Washington nor Tokyo dared to openly argue with Macron. Pushing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization towards the "North Atlantic-Indian Ocean-Pacific Treaty Organization" would be a deviant path for Europe, triggering a global geopolitical tragedy and turning Europe into a complete "lackey" of the US.

If the Tokyo office is established, it could open a "Pandora's box." Macron's strong opposition will be secretly applauded by many European countries and will create overt moral deterrence. Time will prove whether the US' hegemonic power in the West and the pragmatism represented by Stoltenberg can ultimately topple and tear apart the "banner of justice" raised by Macron.