German Defense Minister: Greater Security Presence Eyed for Indo-Pacific

Reuters file photo
German Defense Minister and CDU Chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer attends the CDU board meeting in Berlin on Oct. 14, 2019.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer expressed an intention to dispatch navy ships to the Indo-Pacific region during a written interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun. Germany has taken this stance apparently out of concern over a rising China, which is regarded as a possible factor to destabilize the economically important region. The following is excerpted from the interview.

The Yomiuri Shimbun:The German government released new policy guidelines for the Indo-Pacific region last September. Why does the government need to be engaged in the regional security of the Indo-Pacific? Does Germany have the idea of deterring China with allied countries?

Kramp-Karrenbauer:As a global trading power and advocate of a rules-based multilateral order, Germany takes a key interest in security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Any disturbance of the stability in the Indo-Pacific region has immediate consequences for us here in Europe. Germany therefore wants to be a reliable partner to this region and deliver on its responsibility to uphold applicable legislation, territorial integrity and freedom of navigation, and to contribute actively to this international order. Our engagement in the region is not directed against anything or anyone; it is about actively working for stability and prosperity, for our rules-based order.

Q: It was reported that the German government was willing to dispatch the frigate Hamburg to the Indo-Pacific region. What is your purpose in dispatching the navy?

A: Together with like-minded partners, we want to strengthen our presence in the region, thereby setting an example for friendly cooperation — by participating in maritime exercises, by the embarkation of German Navy officers on friendly vessels, and yes, also by our own maritime presence in 2021. We are currently discussing deployment routes, dates, possible port visits and potential participation in military exercises. The exact plans will be made public as soon as things have been finalized.

Q: Do you think Japan and Germany have a common interest in developing and purchasing weaponry?

A: Germany and Japan have been in close exchange concerning armament projects for quite a while now — on a political level but also between our defense industries and experts. I am very happy to see the annual German-Japanese Defense and Security Technology Forum becoming an established platform for this exchange.

It is definitely to the benefit of both our countries when we intensify cooperation concerning security- and defense-related topics: Closer armaments cooperation in the air, land and sea domains, but also on cyber and space issues is one important aspect.

Q:You said in a speech that Europe would present a common proposal to the incoming Biden administration in the United States in terms of China policy. What concrete items do you have in mind?

A:We observe carefully how China is trying to use international organizations for its own interests and to set its new own standards. China has great ambitions in terms of foreign, security and economic policy, and that is legitimate. But they must not come at the expense of others. There are no exceptions to that. Meanwhile, China remains an important partner in our efforts to find solutions for mankind’s great challenges, such as climate change.

In this complex setting, it is crucial for us Europeans to safeguard our interests and values. A strong rules-based, multilateral order is fundamental for peace and prosperity. That is what like-minded states in Asia, Europe and America agree on. That’s what we stand for. This order can only be preserved by pulling together. That is what a new deal will be about: tackling transnational challenges together, taking a unified stance on our interests and values.

Q:NATO is said to be facing a crisis of fractured political cohesion. Can it be mended?

A:NATO has always been the core pillar of European security. The continued support of NATO in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic is testament to that. However, we in the European Union must take on more responsibility for our own security, and Germany has to take on its fair share. This expectation will not change under a new U.S. administration. Consequently, we are strengthening the EU’s Common Security and Defense policy to enhance our ability to act. That was also one of our core priorities during Germany’s EU Council presidency over the past six months.

Meanwhile in NATO, we are working on making NATO fit for a new era: The NATO reflection group just published its report and presented 138 recommendations, addressing both a changed strategic environment and the need for internal reform. During this process, I really got the impression that all 30 allies are strongly committed to strengthening NATO for what lies ahead to achieve a more resilient NATO — and thus greater security for all transatlantic Allies.

— Kramp-Karrenbauer has been Germany’s federal minister of defense since July 2019. She also has been party leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since December 2018, succeeding Chancellor Angela Merkel. Until 2018, she served as state premier of the Saarland and headed various ministries there. She is 58.

Reuters file photo
Frigates of the German Navy take part in the exercise “Northern Coast,” in the Baltic Sea near Rostock, Germany, in September 2019.