Tailored partnerships, a potential new liaison office, enhanced information-sharing — NATO is rapidly deepening engagement with its four Asia-Pacific partners, arguing that the security of Europe is inseparable from that of the Indo-Pacific, as conflict rages in Europe and the U.S.-China rivalry intensifies in Asia.

But with the U.S.-led military alliance unlikely to intervene directly in an Asian conflict, does its outreach help deter Chinese aggression or further fuel regional tensions? Experts are divided over the issue.

Last week, confirmation emerged that Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, which are informally known as the “Asia-Pacific Four” (AP4), will transition to NATO’s new Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP) once their existing tie-up arrangements are due for renewal. Since the early 2010s, these countries have been part of a NATO group called “partners across the globe.”