Saturday, February 20, 2021

Germany to send warship to Indo-Pacific with eye on China

Germany says the mission is 'not aimed at anyone' but Berlin seems to have Chinese expansionism in mind.

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The German government plans to send a naval frigate to Japan, South Korea and Australia as part of its new focus on the Indo-Pacific, Nikkei Asia reports.

Sailing through the disputed South China Sea to visit other Asian democracies is also in the plan.

It is a rare move for Berlin, which has no Indo-Pacific territories of its own, unlike the UK and France.

Last autumn, the German cabinet approved new Indo-Pacific guidelines that stress the importance of the rule of law and promoting open markets in the region. The frigate deployment will be a first step in realising the new strategy.

Thomas Silberhorn, of the German defence ministry, told Nikkei: “We hope to sail this summer. We want to deepen our ties with our partners in the democratic camp.”

He stressed that the plan is “not aimed at anyone” but Berlin clearly seems to have Chinese expansionism in mind.

This new Indo-Pacific focus is in line with similar policy shifts in the UK, France and the Netherlands, which have been stepping up their involvement in this geopolitically crucial part of the world.

Germany’s increased attention signals that its long-held stance on China to deepen economic ties while avoiding political and human rights issues, is coming to an end as the human-rights-focused Greens look likely to join the next German government.

The UK, meanwhile, is preparing to deploy the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its strike group to Asia between April and June, and France has 8,000 troops in the Indo-Pacific as Paris becomes increasingly aware of Chinese expansionism.

Silberhorn said Europe needs to take more responsibility for its own security and not be overly dependent on US military might.

The voyage will be a symbolic move in Europe’s policy toward Asia as the region rapidly becomes increasingly wary of China.

European countries “have a lot of experience with Russia, but we lack this with Asia,” an EU diplomat told Nikkei. “We need more experience in this region and learn to adjust as we go.”

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