By Ina Lepel, German ambassador to Japan
When the German Federal Government published its “Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific Region” in August, we were positively surprised by the response in the region. Apparently, a lucid presentation of the rethinking of our policy for the Indo-Pacific region was long overdue.
It is foreseeable that, more than anywhere else, the shape of tomorrow’s international order will be decided in the Indo-Pacific. AndGermany is not willing to remain on the sidelines as a mere observer. At a time of increasing strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China, Germany and Europe should do their utmost to remain important economic and political partners, and a stabilizing and balancing factor in the region.
The prosperity of our society depends on open shipping routes, physical and digital connectivity and our participation in functioning, prospering markets. And we will continue to defend our values – democracy, a free and open society, a social market economy, the rule of law and human rights – as they are the foundations of our successful model of development.
Our policy guidelines and Japan’s vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” share common ground, just as our two countries have much in common. Neither of us are superpowers that can afford to ignore the larger context and simply play by our own rules. Instead we share a common interest in upholding the rules-based international order and the multilateral system. A bipolar order with clear dividing lines across the Indo-Pacific would undermine those interests. No country should be forced to choose between two sides or be reduced to a state of dependency, as was the case during the Cold War.
Germany’s main security focus will remain in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but we are resolved to expand our security and defense cooperation into the Indo-Pacific region – also in cooperation with our European partners, because we know that we have a stronger impact when we act together. We are convinced that we must find better ways to address the existential security concerns of our long-standing partners such as Japan. This notion – thinking for ourselves, but always with partners and within a multilateral framework – has become a part of our political DNA. Accordingly, our policy guidelines are conceived as a contribution to an overall EU strategy in the near future.
Multilateralism is thus a guiding principle of our policy in the Indo-Pacific region. Stronger political, economic and security networks in the region help to reduce unilateral dependencies and to preserve sovereignty. Germany will increase its political efforts to strengthen multilateral institutions and to demonstrate and demand respect for international law and international courts.
At a time when key principles of the rules-based international order are challenged, it is ever more important for those who believe in multilateral cooperation to work together. This idea gave rise to the establishment of the Alliance for Multilateralism, a format jointly led by Germany and France to promote a strong commitment to multilateral efforts. We aim to further promote this initiative in the Indo-Pacific, also by taking into account issues that are of particular importance to the region.
When discussing our guidelines with Japanese partners, the conversation often reflects a sense of urgency and a willingness to commit to shaping the world of the 21st century. Germany is committed to making good use of this momentum by working together with Japan for a peaceful and prosperous future in the Indo-Pacific.