Japan to sign military pact with Britain as allies face China threat

Japan to sign military pact with Britain as allies face China threat

Japan and Britain are set to sign a major defense pact in December that will allow the countries to expand cooperation with the United States in the Indo-Pacific region and boost deterrence against the growing threat from China.

The countries will sign a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), according to two people familiar with the negotiations. It will follow a similar deal in Japan signed with Australia in January and is another sign of Tokyo building deeper defense ties with allies and partners in preparation for the possibility of war with China. Taiwan.

The pact will facilitate joint military exercises and logistical cooperation between the nations. It will also establish a legal framework to simplify the burdensome red tape for troop entry into each other’s countries.

“The mutual access agreement between Japan and the UK will facilitate exercises and joint operations for both sides, allowing the British armed forces to more easily deploy and train in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Zach Cooper, Asia. American Enterprise Institute security expert.

“For decades, alliances in Asia have been tied together through the US in what has been described as a ‘detachment’ model. Now some US allies, including Japan, Great Britain and Australia, are themselves serving as hubs.”

The nations agreed to start talks on the RAA in May when Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met his then UK counterpart Boris Johnson in London.

The agreement will be another example of deepening ties between Japan and the UK. The two countries are expected to unveil the details of the partnership in December jointly develop their next fighters.

“This is likely a response to both increasing pressure from China and growing concerns about US reliability,” Cooper added.

While President Joe Biden has reinvigorated U.S. alliances, Japan was nervous during the previous administration when then-President Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to withdraw U.S. troops from Japan.

Former Pentagon official Christopher Johnston said the RAA would be an “important step” and underscores Japan’s efforts to diversify security ties with US allies and partners. But he said the practical impact would be small because Japan has less military interaction with Britain than with Australia.

Japan is also in the preliminary stages of discussing a similar treaty with the Philippines, which Johnstone believes will be far more significant.

“The RAA between Japan and the Philippines will be much more strategically consistent,” said Johnston, who is now at the CSIS think tank. “It will likely take time to negotiate, but the prospect of deeper defense cooperation between Tokyo and Manila would send a message to China that the network of US alliances in the region is tightening.”

The US has also tried expand access to bases in the Philippineswhich would be a strategically important place in the event of a war over Taiwan.

U.S. military officials welcome Japan’s push for mutual access agreements because they facilitate joint exercises and drills between Japanese and American allies and ease efforts to overcome logistical obstacles. Washington wants to increase military cooperation and interoperability with allies in ways that could be important in the event of a war with China.

Over the past two years, the US and Japan have stepped up efforts to prepare for a possible conflict with China over Taiwan, including by holding serious war games and more regular joint military exercises.

Japan is also in advanced talks with the United States to acquire Tomahawk cruise missiles that would allow it to strike targets in eastern China, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In a statement following a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in Germany on Thursday, the State Department said the two diplomats discussed “the imperative of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Separately, senior White House officials held sensitive talks in London in April about the role Britain could play in a conflict over Taiwan.

People familiar with the UK-Japan RAA talks warned that a final agreement on the treaty and cooperation on the fighter jets depended on political developments in the UK, where Rishi Sunak recently became the third prime minister in two months.

The office of the Prime Minister of Japan has sent requests to the Ministry of Defense, but it was not possible to get a comment. A spokesman for Britain’s Ministry of Defense said talks were “progressing positively” but added it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the signing of the RAA at this time.

Additional reporting by John Paul Rathbone

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