Japan won't join NATO, but aware of liaison office plan - PM

G7 Summit in Hiroshima
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a bilateral meeting held by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres (not pictured), on the sideline of the G7 leaders' summit in Hiroshima, western Japan May 21, 2023. REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou/Pool

TOKYO, May 24 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday the country had no plans to become a NATO member but acknowledged the security alliance's plan to open a liaison office in Japan.

Kishida's comments came after the Japanese ambassador to the United States said earlier this month that the U.S.-led military pact was planning a Tokyo office, the first in Asia, to facilitate consultations in the region.

"I am not aware of any decision made" at NATO regarding the establishment of the office, Kishida told a Wednesday parliament session, adding his country was not planning to join NATO as a member or semi-member state.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning called Japan's move something the Asia-Pacific region "does not welcome," saying Tokyo should be "extra cautious on the issue of military security" given its "history of aggression".

Japan hosted the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima over the weekend, where the leaders of rich democracies agreed to "de-risk, not decouple" economic engagement with China and reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Kishida is arranging to attend a NATO summit scheduled to be held in Lithuania in July, Kyodo news agency reported later on Wednesday, citing Japanese government officials.

Reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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