MODERATOR:  Greetings from the U.S. Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub.  I would like to welcome journalists to today’s on-the-record briefing with U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, Ambassador Julianne Smith.  Ambassador Smith recently led a delegation to Tokyo and Seoul with other NATO permanent representatives, where they met with a range of officials, policymakers, students, and thought leaders to discuss how NATO can strengthen its official partnership with Japan and the Republic of Korea on issues from cyber defense, emerging technologies, and maritime security to climate change, supply chain resilience, and countering disinformation.  Ambassador Smith will provide a readout of her trip and discuss NATO’s partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.

And with that, let’s get started.  Ambassador Smith, welcome.  I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, thank you very much for that introduction, Katie, and thanks to all of you for joining us for this briefing.  Looking forward to your questions.  Apologies in advance:  I have a little bit of a tickle in my throat, so I might have to take a drink of water along the way.

But let me just start at the top by reminding folks that the NATO Alliance has over 30 partnerships with countries around the world, and of those many partnerships we have two very interesting and important relationships with both Japan and the Republic of Korea.

As Katie mentioned, I was able to lead a delegation – a small delegation – of ambassadors to both Tokyo and Seoul over a couple of days.  The group included ambassadors from Czechia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom.  And we went to those two countries in the Indo-Pacific with a couple of different objectives.

First and foremost, we just wanted to gain some firsthand insights on how they were looking at a variety of shared security challenges.  We were interested in hearing their perspective on their immediate neighborhood in terms of events and challenges in the Indo-Pacific, but we also wanted to thank both of these countries for their strong and important assistance that they have provided to our friends in Ukraine as they defend their territorial integrity against Russian aggression.

Secondly, we wanted to have a conversation with these two partners about ways in which we can deepen the partnership.  We already work with both of these countries on everything from cyber security to climate security to maritime security and disinformation, but we wanted to hear from them areas where they wanted to deepen the partnership and look for ways to go beyond the existing workstreams that we have with those two countries.

And lastly, we just wanted to share best practices.  These two countries are incredibly capable.  They bring an enormous amount of expertise.  We were interested in talking to them about how they’re combating the hybrid toolkit that countries such as the PRC and Russia both use to undermine the rules-based order and sometimes undermine the unity across the NATO Alliance.  And so we were able to learn from them, how are they protecting their technological edge?  How are they strengthening their own toolkits, both nationally and collectively in multilateral organizations?  And again, how do they want to work with all of us in the Euro-Atlantic area and with the NATO Alliance?

Fundamentally, we had kind of a common message for our friends in the Indo-pacific, and that is that events in the Euro-Atlantic area are of great importance and matter, no doubt for our friends in the Indo-Pacific, but we wanted to help them understand that events in the Indo-Pacific also matter for the NATO Alliance, which is a regional military alliance, a defensive alliance, but it basically works both ways.  Increasingly, we find ourselves not in two separate theaters, but really, essentially in one theater addressing an array of common challenges.

So for us, it was a very productive trip.  We learned a lot.  We listened to our friends in the Indo-Pacific and we gained from the insights that they brought to the table about how we can all work together to protect the rules-based order and address a variety of common challenges.

So with that, I’ll probably leave it there.  But again, I’m interested in hearing your questions and I’m happy to share anything else I can about the trip or our work here at NATO or the summit next summer, depending on what your questions are.  So many, many thanks for joining us.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  We’ll now turn to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.  Our first question came in in advance from James Griffiths of The Globe and Mail based in Hong Kong, and James asks:  “What do you see as Japan’s role within an expanded NATO remit covering Asia?”

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, thanks very much for that question.  And it allows me to make a very important point.  I think sometimes there’s misperception about what the NATO Alliance is actually doing with these partners in the Indo-Pacific, and I want to be very clear here.  First and foremost, the NATO Alliance remains a Euro-Atlantic alliance.  NATO is not looking to expand or enlarge into the Indo-Pacific.  Our partners in the Indo-Pacific are not looking to join the NATO Alliance and NATO is not looking to enlarge into their region.

But that said, our friends in the neighborhood – in the Indo-Pacific region – have expressed an interest in working more deeply with the NATO Alliance.  And that brings us to something called the ITPP process, which is an Individually Tailored Partnership Program.  So any country that expresses an interest in working and partnering with the NATO Alliance can first and foremost engage in a dialogue with us, as our friends in Japan and the Republic of Korea have done over recent years, and then you can move through different ways of strengthening your country’s relationship with NATO.  And the ITPP process is one way of doing that.

So what that means is that Japan, for example, has now come to the NATO Alliance and outlined on paper the areas in which it would like to cooperate with the NATO Alliance.  Again, this has nothing to do with membership, but it’s about partnering together and strengthening kind of our collective toolkit on how we can address challenges that we’re both facing in two very different regions around the world.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes to us via the Q&A tab from Quoc Dat at Dan Tri in Vietnam, who asks:  “There is a concern that NATO’s increasing engagement in the Asia Pacific will only lead to more tension in a rather peaceful region of the globe.  How do you respond to this concern?  What is NATO’s game plan in the Asia Pacific?”

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, again, I want to be clear that we are not looking to enlarge the Alliance.  This is a defensive Alliance.  It is looking to create stability and provide stability for its members first and foremost, but also with and in cooperation with its partners.  And we find ourselves today in a very complex security situation where Russia is now actively engaging in a war in Ukraine, where the PRC is using a variety of hybrid tools to undermine the rules-based order both in the Indo-Pacific and in the Euro-Atlantic area, where Iran and DPRK are increasingly acting as destabilizing actors on the world stage.

So what NATO is trying to do in working with its Indo-Pacific partners is to foster more stability by sharing best practices on how we can collectively cope with things like malicious cyber attacks or disinformation campaigns or economic coercion or any of the other typical hybrid plays that countries like Russia and the PRC rely on.

So this is about fostering stability and security, and it’s not about disrupting any particular region around the world.  Again, NATO is looking at these partnerships in essence as a learning opportunity on sharing insights and best practices with our close partners around the world.

MODERATOR:  Next we have a question coming up to us from Colin Clark at Breaking Defense based in Sydney, Australia.  Colin, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  I think I have.  Ambassador, I covered NATO for a long time, and I’m wondering what lessons you’ve taken from the Partnership for Peace efforts in terms of shaping this new focus on our region.

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, thank you very much.  Yes, so NATO has a variety of different partnership programs, and Partnership for Peace has always been one of the flagship programs here in the Alliance, focused exclusively on kind of the Euro-Atlantic area.  We have kind of the partners that are interested in very specific subjects, where they can enhance their cooperation with the Alliance on, say, cyber security or even on questions of interoperability.

We also have partners that over time have turned into aspirants.  For those countries that are in the Euro-Atlantic area, Ukraine is an example of one of our closest partners that now is moving ever closer to the Alliance through, for example, the development of the NATO-Ukraine Council, which we recently unveiled at the Vilnius Summit earlier this summer.

So my point here is that whether you’re looking at our partners in the immediate neighborhood, a few of which are interested in ultimately joining the Alliance, or whether you’re looking at a much broader collection of partners that have no intention of joining the NATO Alliance, I think our lesson is we allow the country itself to drive the partnership.  If the partner wants to move closer on specific subjects, we try to find areas in which we can strengthen our cooperation.  If a partner wants a looser, more broadly defined partnership where they only engage sporadically, we will let their own preferences drive the process.

But it’s kind of a – it is in essence a multi-layered approach to partnerships.  And for those countries that are immediately in the Euro-Atlantic neighborhood, it’s obviously a different set of questions than our partners in faraway places – again, those countries that are not in fact moving towards the ultimate goal of joining the Alliance.  Because this Alliance, again, remains a Euro-Atlantic alliance and does not have the aspiration to become a global alliance of any shape or form.  So I hope that’s helpful.

MODERATOR:  Next we go to a question that came to us from Dane Anwar of Kompas based in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Dane asks:  “How do non-member countries develop cooperation with NATO, and how will you ensure this will not increase tensions and flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific?”

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, again, we leave it into the hands of individual countries, first and foremost, to determine whether or not they think they would find any value in engaging the NATO Alliance.

So it is not a case that NATO is out actively seeking partners.  We allow countries around the world to come to us if they are in fact interested in establishing a partnership.  And it’s a pretty simple process.  It always begins with dialogue where maybe it’s a high-level visit, a single visit where either a head of state or perhaps a foreign minister or some other high-ranking official makes a call or a visit to the Alliance to find out whether or not the Alliance would be interested in engaging that country on issue X, Y, or Z.  And after that dialogue begins, again, we allow the country itself to drive a process where it is interested in using a more formal channel such as the ITPP process that I just mentioned to dive down deeper into specific issues sets.

So with our Indo-Pacific partners, this has been driven by them, by the four Indo-Pacific partners, which are New Zealand, Australia, the Republic of Korea, and Japan.  We went through a process where we engaged in a dialogue with them.  As I mentioned, we’re now moving down the path of an ITPP process.  And what we’ve done is we’ve actually welcomed the leaders of those four countries to the summit in Madrid last year.  They came to the summit this year in Lithuania and were able to sit at the table with NATO Allies to share, again, their insights on regional security challenges, global security challenges, and offer particular lessons learned on how to cope with a variety of challenges.

In terms of how we make sure that folks understand that this is nothing that is necessarily aggressive or should be viewed that way, I think we have to keep communicating to countries around the world what these partnerships are all about, why we value them, and reiterate the point that NATO is in fact not enlarging around the world.  There’s no question here at NATO Headquarters that this Alliance’s core focus is on the Euro-Atlantic area.  But we recognize the importance of engaging countries around the world in part because we find ourselves benefiting from engagement with countries that have particular insights.  We have countries in the Middle East that we engage, in the Gulf region; we have countries in North Africa such as Morocco that we engage through our partnership program; our friends in Israel are a proper partner, and the list goes on and on.

So again, these are all unique partnerships.  They differ a little bit from one country to another.  But I think the bottom line is that we share a lot of the same values and we’re interested in ensuring that collectively we can protect the rules-based order.

MODERATOR:  Next we’ll go to a question coming to us from Masakatsu Ota at Kyodo News based in Tokyo.  You should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Oh, thank you very much.  Can you hear me?



QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you very much, Ambassador.  My question is regarding the North Korea, especially potential DPRK and Russia military cooperation.  Just there, we have seen the recent launch – missile launch by North Korea ICBM, also launching a satellite into space.  So what extent the NATO – your thoughts on the Seoul and Tokyo discuss about the potential collaboration between Russia and the DPRK.  What kind of extent was made during your trip to Tokyo and Seoul?  That’s my question.  Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, thank you for that question.  Well, let me start by saying the DPRK really should be a growing concern for all of us here at NATO, particularly given the recent developments that we’ve seen between the DPRK and Russia.  We are witnessing, really in real time, an expanding relationship between those two countries that we believe will not only extend Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine, but I think it also reveals the extent to which dynamics playing out in the Indo-Pacific have an increasingly direct impact on the NATO Alliance.

We do have new information that the DPRK recently delivered even more arms to Russia for use in their war against Ukraine, and our information does indicate that the DPRK has provided Russia with more than a thousand containers of military equipment and munitions.  We’ve also released, I think as you all know, imagery showing the movement of those containers from the DPRK into Russia by ship.  And as a result, we’ve been very strong in our condemnation for the DPRK or to the DPRK for providing that kind of equipment to the Russians, which no doubt will be used to attack the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian cities, and further Russia’s illegitimate war.

We’re certainly going to continue to monitor this situation for any additional arms shipments to Russia.  And we’re also increasingly concerned, by the way, about Russia’s own assistance to the DPRK.  In return for its support, we do assess that Pyongyang is seeking advanced military technology from Russia, perhaps fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment, or materials of that kind.

So this expanding military partnership between the DPRK and Russia really, fundamentally undermines regional stability, it undermines international stability, and certainly undermines the global nonproliferation regime.

So we do believe it’s time for the NATO Alliance to examine this growing threat to the security of the Alliance much more closely and consider new lines of effort to come together to collectively mitigate it.

MODERATOR:  Our next question came in to us via the Q&A tab from Jack Lau with The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.  And Jack asks:  “What has the U.S. learned specifically about protecting technological advantages from the Chinese Government and Chinese companies during this trip?  And how will those learnings translate into policy?”

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, I don’t want to really get into the details of specific strategies that were shared.  A lot of these decisions were – I mean a lot of these discussions were private.  But what I will say is that we are all increasingly aware of a classic hybrid playbook that the PRC is relying on more and more.  And it comes down to this fundamental goal of eroding the technological edge of a number of countries around the world, including those in the NATO Alliance where we talk about this on a regular basis and are very focused as an Alliance about how we can maintain our technological edge and incorporate the use of advanced technology in our strategies, doctrine, and our military capabilities.

But as I noted at the top, we’re increasingly interested in learning from our partners who are facing similar challenges.  And for our friends and partners in both Japan and the Republic of Korea, but in many countries around the world, we NATO Allies have been interested in hearing from them how they’re coping with that particular tactic that is regularly used by the PRC.  And we were able to sit down at the table and hear from our friends about either their national strategy of how they are developing their approach as an individual government at the national level, or how they’re also using other multilateral forums.  There is good work going on as it relates to emerging and disruptive tech in multiple multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, such as the G7, such as the European Union.

And so to the extent that NATO Allies can tap into some of that knowhow, some of those approaches, learn about ways in which we can all protect our very important access to emerging technology and continue to be thought leaders, that benefits all of us.  And we as NATO Allies were able to bring some of the work that we’re doing here at NATO in that space, where we’ve been very focused on innovation as a theme here inside the Alliance, and we’re making real investments in that.  And then we were as individual countries, the eight of us, were able to share some of our own countries’ best practices in protecting our technological edge.

So this is a very fruitful topic of conversation, and we look forward to engaging our partners in Tokyo and Seoul in the future on that particular issue.

MODERATOR:  Okay, we have time for one more question, and that goes to Marek Świerczyński at Polityka Insight in Warsaw, Poland.  Marek asks:  “Ambassador Smith, can you outline the main goals of the U.S. administration for the forthcoming NATO Summit in Washington?”

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Sure, thank you very much.  We’re very excited to be hosting NATO’s 75th birthday anniversary in Washington, D.C., and in mid-July.  This is going to be really a remarkable moment for the Allies to come together and look back on everything that the Alliance has been able to achieve over 75 long years.  The Alliance has showcased over those many decades its ability to adapt and adjust to a whole array of security challenges from its original focus on collective defense to its shift in the ’90s and the early 2000s into embracing expeditionary operations and combating terrorism, to its most recent return to deterrence and defense in light of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

So first and foremost, I would say our goal is to celebrate and applaud the many achievements of the Alliance over many decades.  But we’re also obviously going to be focused on our friends in Ukraine.  We don’t know what state the war will be in, but we were able to welcome President Zelenskyy to the summit this past summer and I would expect that the Allies would be very interested in doing that again and looking at ways for the Alliance to both continue supporting Ukraine in its fight to push out Russia from its territory, but also in strengthening Ukraine’s relationship with the Alliance.

I think another theme for the summit will no doubt be burden sharing.  You’ll remember that in 2014, Allies made a commitment collectively to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.  The year that we made that pledge, we had three countries actually meeting that target.  And so what the Alliance did is it said over the next decade, all of us collectively will try and move closer to that target.  And we expect next summer that we’re going to have a large number of Allies, possibly two thirds of the Alliance, meeting that target.  That will be something to celebrate because it’ll be a major step forward in increasing the burden sharing across the Alliance.

Your country in particular, Poland, has really been a leader in this regard, going beyond the 2 percent and inching its way to 3 percent.  I know there’s some talk even of 4 percent in certain NATO Allies’ national governments.

So this will be a wonderful moment to come together, celebrate 75 years, look out at the future, ensure that the Alliance has the capabilities to respond to future challenges such as cyber, space, emerging and disruptive tech, and also keep our focus on our friends in Ukraine and ensure that they continue to feel the unity and the resolve that exists across the Alliance to keep supporting them.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, Ambassador Smith.  If you have any last words, I’ll turn it back over to you.

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, I just again want to thank you, Katie, for hosting me this morning.  Thanks for everybody who joined the call.  Thank you for your interest in the NATO Alliance.  2024 is going to be a big year with the 75th anniversary summit.  We look forward to engaging not only the NATO Allies, but all of our partners around the world, like our friends in Japan and Korea, and look for ways to enhance those important partnerships.  So many, many thanks.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, Ambassador Smith.  That brings us to the end of our time for today.  Thank you for your questions and thank you very much to Ambassador Smith for joining us.  We will provide a transcript of this briefing to participating journalists as soon as it’s available, and we’d love to hear your feedback.  You can contact us at any time at  Thanks again for your participation and we hope you can join us for another briefing soon.

U.S. Department of State

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