Germany is observing China's military build-up and drills with Russia with concern while signalling its commitment to a rules-based order in the Indo Pacific with its growing presence there, the country's defence minister told Reuters.
Germany's current focus on the Ukraine war did not mean it could takes its eyes off security developments elsewhere, whether on its doorstep in the west Balkans or in the Indo Pacific, Christine Lambrecht said in an interview at the defence ministry in Berlin. Invasions could happen anywhere.
"We are naturally observing China's build-up with concern and are observing very exactly every single step there," Lambrecht said.
Germany is increasingly joining other Western nations in showing more muscle in the Indo Pacific region amid growing alarm over Beijing's territorial ambitions, even at the risk of irking its top trade partner.
Last year, Berlin sent its first warship in almost 20 years to the disputed waters of the South China Sea and this month it sent 13 military aircraft to joint exercises in Australia.
"Through our presence and participation in the exercises we are sending clear signals," said the minister. "We are on the side of the partners who stand for a rules-based order."
Each military has its own equipment, so countries need to practise together to identify and solve any problems, she said. The Australia drills had proven "very constructive" and shown that Germany could fulfill its commitment to partners in the region as well as to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Asked if Germany would send a warship through the Taiwan Straits as had the United States, Lambrecht said: "It's not about provoking or escalating the situation in any way ... Instead our approach is to de-escalate."
Germany's relationship with China has long been centered on mutually beneficial business exchange, with China's rapid economic expansion driving its own growth.
But Lambrecht said Germany had learnt the lesson of not being too dependent on any one country from the energy crisis sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"We must now become more independent in other sectors, not just energy, to be able to act freely," said Lambrecht. "We are bound to China through economic relations but that must not stop us from taking clear positions on certain decisions."