February 6, 2023

Japan embraces the United Kingdom closely as it seeks to counter China – POLITICO

LONDON — Japan sees the United Kingdom as a key defense and trading ally in its push against China in the Indo-Pacific, senior Japanese officials say, as the country makes a diplomatic push to rally the G7 nations this week.

Tokyo opened its G7 presidency with a diplomatic offensive amid concerns about China and Russia. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Italy and France this week before arriving in London – and he plans to cap off the week with visits to Canada and Washington.

Japanese Prime Minister Hikariko Ono’s press secretary told reporters on Wednesday that Kishida “strongly believes” that “security in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region are inseparable.”

On the same day, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Kishida signed a mutual access agreement, the most important defense agreement between the two countries since 1902. The two sides will intensify joint military exercises and facilitate the ability of British forces to deploy to Japan. vice versa.

Before signing, Sunak said the agreement “reinforces our commitment to the Indo-Pacific, underscores our joint efforts to enhance economic security, accelerate our defense cooperation, and drive innovation that creates high-skilled jobs.”

“Cooperation across defense and security will benefit not only Japan and the United Kingdom, but also broader global stability,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said after the signing ceremony in the Tower of London on Wednesday night.

Japan is increasingly concerned about security in its own backyard. Last December, China and Russia conducted Joint military exercises with live ammunition near Japan. Beijing conducted live-fire exercises near Taiwan last summer, after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. This prompted Tokyo to update its national security strategy in December, pledging to increase the defense budget to 2% of GDP – up 20%.

Ono, a spokesman for the Japanese prime minister, said that Japan’s security environment has become “really harsh, so we have no choice but to consider whether or not our current defense capability can really defend the lives of the Japanese people.”

Last month, London and Tokyo also announced their collaboration with Italy Storm developmentA new combat aircraft equipped with the latest technology.

During his meeting with Sunak, Keshida urged Britain to agree to more bilateral meetings between the foreign and defense ministers of both countries in a bid to boost defense ties.

“We are ready to strengthen our security alliances, and would like to explore further cooperation” with the UK, Ono said

As part of this, Tokyo is working to help Britain join the 11-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc for Asia and the Pacific. Japan is a founding member and the deal is “not just a trade agreement, but a strategic agreement,” the spokesperson said, with negotiations with the UK “now in their final stage.”

They said Kishida and Snack plan to “jointly address the remaining issues regarding accession, so that the earliest possible conclusion can be reached.”

They said Japan was keen to “promote the freedom and openness of the Indo-Pacific,” and “fully supports” the British government’s involvement in the region.