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VOA Asia Weekly: France Blocks NATO Office in Tokyo

VOA Asia Weekly: France Blocks NATO Office in Tokyo
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Former US President Trump faces third indictment. Thailand political deadlock. France and Japan conduct military drills amid China tensions, but Paris wary of NATO role. Man or bear debate at Chinese zoo.

France blocks the opening of a NATO office in Tokyo.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:

“The attack on our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021 was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”

A federal grand jury in Washington indicted former U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday for illegally trying to upend his 2020 election loss to retain power. Trump’s team attacked the indictment, calling it reminiscent of "Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes." He was due in a DC federal court Thursday afternoon.

Thailand's Pheu Thai party will nominate real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin for the next prime ministerial vote in parliament, a party official said on Wednesday. In recent elections, the party won the second largest number of seats in the Thai House of Representatives. The Move Forward Party won but is no longer part of an eight-party alliance that was formed after a May general election. Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat twice failed to win a majority of votes in parliament due to conservative opposition.

The United States has formally invited China's newly reappointed foreign minister, Wang Yi, to Washington, according to a State Department spokesperson. The invitation comes after Beijing abruptly removed Wang's predecessor Qin Gang from his post.

Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be pardoned for five of the 19 offenses for which she was jailed for a total of 33 years, state media reported on Tuesday. The partial pardon reduces her sentence by six years. On Monday, the ruling junta officially postponed an election promised by August this year.

Several days of torrential rain from remnants of Typhoon Doksuri have hit Beijing with one of its worst storms in more than a decade, triggering landslides and floods that swept away cars and destroyed roads. More than 120,000 people have been evacuated.

Tearful crowds bid goodbye to late singer and songwriter Coco Lee on Tuesday during her funeral in eastern Hong Kong. Lee died by suicide at the age of 48 last month after a career spanning three decades.

The French and Japanese air forces completed four days of aerial combat exercises in Japan last weekend, the first of their kind between the two allies. But even as Paris seeks to build its military alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, its government blocked proposals to open a NATO liaison office in Tokyo. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Japan.

For the plane-spotting public - and for Japan itself - this was something new. French fighter jets flying alongside Japanese warplanes. The joint aerial drills are part of a larger French exercise codenamed Pegase 2023 taking place across the Indo-Pacific, including in French island territories.

“It’s natural that France, a resident nation of the Indo-Pacific, is particularly concerned by the geopolitical tensions felt in the region as a result of competition between the great powers.”

Those tensions are also felt by NATO – which cites China as a challenge to alliance interests. Security analyst Michito Tsuruoka.

“NATO’s interest is very much affected by what takes place in the Indo-Pacific region. So that means that NATO has to be more engaged for its own interest.”

At its latest summit in July, NATO debated opening a liaison office in Tokyo. But Emmanuel Macron, the president of NATO member France, blocked the move – despite its close alliance with Japan. Fabrice Pothier is a former NATO head of policy planning.

“It’s pretty clear that President Macron wants to avert any sort of escalation, or dynamic that could lead to escalation, with China.”

Japan and France say their joint exercise aims to ‘promote the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.’

But does NATO have a role in that vision? It’s a question the alliance - and its allies in the region - have yet to decide.

Henry Ridgwell for VOA News, at the Nyutabaru Air Base in southern Japan.

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Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly. I’m Chris Casquejo. Until next week.

We leave you now at a Chinese zoo at the center of a man or bear debate. Video showed a sun bear standing on its legs inside its enclosure as visitors looked on. Chinese netizens questioned if the bear was a man dressed in a costume, due to the bear's humanlike stance and folds of loose skin on its back. The zoo responded that it was indeed a bear.