The German Army is expected to join an exercise with Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force as early as next year, according to German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, against a backdrop of China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific region and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In a recent written interview with Kyodo News, Pistorius revealed that the upcoming joint exercise, set to take place in Japan, will be the first of its kind between the two countries’ ground forces. The development comes as Germany has bolstered ties with Indo-Pacific partners and emphasized its mission to “maintain the rules-based international order.”

Pistorius pointed out that no signs indicate that China will abandon its territorial claims in the South China Sea, as Beijing continues to deploy coast guards, maritime militia as well as sea and air forces in the waters concerned to enforce its claims.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. (Kyodo)

Beijing also claims the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

“We are observing these developments with concern,” the defense minister said, emphasizing China’s significant responsibility for global peace and stability. He also noted that China is a partner for Germany, underscoring the importance of leveraging these ties.

Pistorius stated that officials from Germany’s army have recently visited Japan to coordinate their participation in the GSDF drills. This collaboration follows the conclusion of their defense pact earlier this year, aimed at facilitating exchanges of supplies and logistical support.

The acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, or ACSA, simplifies the process of sharing food, fuel and ammunition between Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the German military.

The two countries’ maritime and air forces have already conducted joint exercises, and Germany is committed to deploying a frigate, a supply ship and aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region this year.

The German frigate is expected to make a port call in Japan in August, with the European country’s fighter jets planned to join a drill with Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force in July.

Germany, which had reduced its military spending after the end of the Cold War, is rebuilding its military following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

Pistorius said that Russia’s launch of the war against Ukraine in violation of international law was an eye-opener for his country and a “turning point.”

“Our military experts tell us that Russia would theoretically be able to attack NATO territory in five to eight years. Regardless of whether Moscow would take this risk or not, we must be prepared for anything,” he said while emphasizing that the country’s goal is deterrence.


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