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Why can’t Japan join NATO?

Why can’t Japan join NATO?


Japan, as a prominent global power, has been a long-standing partner of NATO. However, despite its close relations with the alliance, Japan cannot join NATO as a member. This article aims to explain why this is so.

NATO Membership Requirements

NATO membership has strict requirements that all prospective members must meet. These requirements include democratic governance, a functional market economy, and the ability to contribute to the alliance’s collective defense. Japan’s constitution and political structure do not fully align with these requirements, making it ineligible for membership.

Japanese Snack Box

Japan’s Military Capabilities

Japan has a potent military force that could potentially contribute significantly to NATO’s collective defense. However, Article 9 of Japan’s constitution prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes, making it difficult for Japan to participate in NATO’s military actions if it were to become a member.

Geopolitical Implications

Japan joining NATO would have significant geopolitical implications. It would send a message of Japan aligning with western powers against Russia and China, potentially destabilizing relations in the Asia-Pacific region. This could also lead to increased tensions between Japan and neighboring countries that are not part of NATO.

NATO’s Relationship with Non-Members

NATO maintains relationships with non-member countries through partnership programs such as the Partnership for Peace and the Mediterranean Dialogue. These programs allow for cooperation on issues such as security and defense while maintaining independence from NATO’s command structure.

Japan’s Relationship with NATO

Despite not being a member, Japan has close relations with NATO. Japan participates in various partnership programs and has contributed to several NATO-led operations, including support for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Japan’s Defense Strategy

Japan has a unique defense strategy that prioritizes self-defense and regional stability. This strategy is based on close cooperation with the United States and other regional partners, rather than reliance on international alliances such as NATO.

Alternative Regional Alliances

Japan has formed alternative regional alliances, such as the Quad, which includes Australia, India, and the United States. This alliance focuses on issues such as maritime security and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Public Opinion in Japan

Public opinion in Japan towards NATO membership is mixed. While some support closer ties with western powers, others are concerned about the implications of joining a military alliance that may lead to conflict with neighboring countries.


In conclusion, while Japan cannot join NATO as a member due to its political structure and constitution, it maintains close relations with the alliance through partnership programs. Japan’s defense strategy prioritizes self-defense and regional stability through cooperation with the United States and other regional partners. Alternative regional alliances have also been formed, reflecting Japan’s unique geopolitical situation.


  • “Why can’t Japan join NATO?” by The Diplomat
  • “Japan and NATO” by NATO
  • “Japan’s Defense Strategy” by Council on Foreign Relations
  • “The Quad: A New Security Architecture for the Indo-Pacific?” by East Asia Forum

Can Japan be part of NATO?

NATO collaborates with various countries on an individual basis, known as “global partners.” These partners include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Pakistan.

Does NATO protect Japan?

NATO and Japan have pledged to enhance their partnership in order to tackle common security challenges. This partnership involves practical collaboration in fields such as cyber defense, non-proliferation, and maritime security. NATO and Japan have been engaged in discussions and cooperation since the early 1990s. The commitment to strengthen relations between the two parties remains strong.

Has Japan tried to join NATO?

Over the past decade, Japan has been strengthening its partnership with NATO to address common security issues and foster defense cooperation. In 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attended the NATO summit in Madrid, marking the country’s first participation in the event.

Why can’t Asia join NATO?

According to its founding treaty, NATO’s responsibilities are limited to the “North Atlantic area,” so it will not be accepting any new members from Asia or making any commitments to defend Asian countries. This policy was reiterated in June 2022.

Does the US have to defend Japan?

Any country that plans to launch an attack against Japan must be prepared to face not only the defensive capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), but also the immense military power of the United States. This is due to the U.S.’s obligation to defend Japan in the event of an armed attack.

Who will protect Japan in war?

The US has committed to defending Japan under Article 5 in the event of a third party attack. Article 6 outlines that the US has the explicit right to establish military bases on Japanese soil, subject to a specific agreement.

Potential Benefits of Japan Joining NATO

Despite the challenges, there could be potential benefits if Japan were to join NATO. One such benefit could be increased security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. NATO’s collective defense capabilities could act as a deterrent against potential aggression from other countries. Additionally, closer ties with NATO could lead to increased cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity and counterterrorism.

The Role of the United States in Japan-NATO Relations

The United States plays a crucial role in Japan’s relationship with NATO. As a close ally of both Japan and NATO, the United States has been instrumental in facilitating cooperation between the two. The US-Japan Security Treaty also provides a framework for cooperation on defense issues, further strengthening ties between Japan and the United States.

NATO’s Involvement in the Asia-Pacific Region

While NATO is primarily focused on Europe and North America, it has been increasingly involved in security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. This includes partnerships with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. As an important regional power, Japan could play a significant role in furthering NATO’s engagement in the region.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Japan-NATO Relations

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on global security and defense cooperation. While Japan has continued to participate in NATO partnership programs, such as the Science for Peace and Security program, there have been challenges posed by travel restrictions and reduced resources. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of international cooperation in addressing global threats.

Potential Future Developments in Japan-NATO Relations

Looking to the future, there could be potential for closer cooperation between Japan and NATO on issues such as cybersecurity and climate change. As geopolitical tensions continue to rise, there may also be increased interest in Japan joining NATO as a member. Ultimately, the future of Japan-NATO relations will depend on a range of factors, including Japan’s domestic politics, regional dynamics, and global security challenges.

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