Ship visit to Japan: Welcome back, Bavaria

Dhe sun was laughing, the sky was bright blue and the band played a lively march. Embassy staff and a Japanese journalist greeted them with German and Japanese flags. On the building on the pier hung Japanese characters with the message “Okaeri – Welcome back, Bavaria”. The frigate “Bayern” had already visited the Far Eastern country 24 years ago. On Friday she moored again, as the first ship of the German Navy in Japan for 19 years.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi beamed as he greeted the frigate and the Germans at the Tokyo cruise terminal. The visit of Bavaria is a visible sign that the western democratic world is coming together to defend its values ​​and the rules of peaceful coexistence between nations in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan, which sees itself as a spearhead in this endeavor given its proximity to China and North Korea, appreciates the naval ship’s stay in the 160th year of German-Japanese relations all the more. Kishi spoke of the arduous journey and praised the determination of the Germans. “We hope that this will lead to the engagement of other European countries in the Indo-Pacific,” said the minister, giving the guests a role model function.

Decisions about freedom, peace and prosperity

The Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, Eberhard Zorn, spoke of the freedom of sea routes and compliance with international law in the region. Important decisions about freedom, peace and prosperity in the world were made in the Indo-Pacific. With the frigate visit Germany shows that it stands for these common values, said Zorn. That was a message not only to the Japanese but also to the audience at home. European countries such as France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have already increased their presence in the region in the face of Chinese maritime claims and demonstrations of power. They also practice attacks on maritime targets together with America or Australia. The fact that Germany without territories is now also flying its flag in the region is new. It is the exclamation point behind the Indo-Pacific strategy adopted by the federal government in 2020, with which Germany seeks a certain distance from China without jeopardizing economic cooperation too much.

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The 232 frigate, which reached Japan via Australia and Guam, will participate in an exercise with the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada in November. This involves exercises such as establishing communications or small maneuvers, but not shooting projects or aggressive operations, Zorn said. According to the German Foreign Ministry, the importance of the frigate’s visit lies in the presence, but not in military threatening gestures. For example, the Bavarians will not cross the Taiwan Strait when they later continue their journey through the South China Sea towards Singapore. China nevertheless refused the frigate’s visit to Shanghai, which was intended as a confidence-building gesture.

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