NATO is planning to open a liaison office in Tokyo as part of efforts to strengthen cooperation with Japan, the country's ambassador to the United States, Koji Tomita, said Tuesday.

"We are working in that direction," Tomita said of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's plan at a press event in Washington. But the envoy added that he has not heard any final confirmation of the plan and did not provide further details.

Koji Tomita, Japanese ambassador to the United States, speaks at a press conference in Washington on May 9, 2023. (Kyodo)

Speaking at the National Press Club to preview a Group of Seven summit Japan will host in Hiroshima from May 19, the ambassador said the country is looking forward to "closer alignment" over China.

Against the backdrop of China's increased assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, Russia's war in Ukraine and North Korea's rapid development of long-range missile capabilities, he said an overarching theme of the three-day G-7 summit is "maintaining and strengthening a free, open, rules-based international order."

NATO now views Japan as a partner nation, along with Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the leaders of the three countries were invited for the first time to a NATO summit in Madrid in June 2022.

In late January in Tokyo, Kishida and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also agreed to build closer ties and facilitate communications amid rapid changes in the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Citing challenges posed by China, Russia and North Korea, they said in a joint statement at the time that Japan and the security alliance of countries in Europe and North America shared the view that "unilateral change of the status quo by force or coercion is not acceptable anywhere in the world."

It also said, "We highlight with concern Russia's growing military cooperation with China, including through joint operations and drills in the vicinity of Japan."

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