Japan hugs UK as it seeks to fend off China – POLITICO

LONDON — Japan increasingly views the UK as a key defense and trade ally in its fightback against China in the Indo-Pacific, senior Japanese officials say, as the country pushes diplomatically to rally the G7 countries this week.

Tokyo opened its G7 presidency with a diplomatic offensive amid concerns over China and Russia. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida traveled to Italy and France this week before landing in London – and plans to end the week with visits to Canada and Washington.

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

On the same day, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Kishida signed a reciprocal access agreement, the most important defense pact between the two nations since 1902. The two will step up joint military exercises and facilitate the deployment of British forces in Japan. and vice versa.

The agreement “consolidates our commitment to the Indo-Pacific,” Sunak said ahead of the signing, “and underscores our joint efforts to strengthen economic security, accelerate our defense cooperation and drive job-creating innovation. highly qualified”.

“Collaboration on defense and security would not only benefit Japan and the UK, but also contribute to greater global stability, the leaders agreed,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said after the signing ceremony at the Tower of London on Wednesday evening.

Japan is increasingly concerned about security in its backyard. Last December, China and Russia conducted joint live-fire military exercises near Japan. And Beijing launched live-fire exercises near Taiwan last summer after Moscow invaded Ukraine. That prompted Tokyo to update its own national security strategy in December, promising to raise its defense budget to 2% of its GDP, a 20% increase.

Japan’s security environment has become “very severe, so we have no choice but to wonder whether our current defense capability can really defend the lives of the Japanese people,” Ono said. -word of the Japanese Prime Minister.

Last month, London and Tokyo also announced that they were teaming up with Italy to develop the Tempest, a new fighter jet equipped with the latest technology.

During his meeting with Sunak, Kashida urged Britain to accept further bilateral meetings between the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries in a bid to further strengthen defense ties.

“We are ready to strengthen our security alliances,” Ono said, and “wish to explore deeper collaboration” with the UK.

As part of this, Tokyo is working to help Britain join the CPTPP trading bloc of 11 Asia-Pacific countries. Japan is a founding member and the deal is “not just a trade deal, but a strategic one”, the spokesperson said, with negotiations with the UK “now at the final stage”.

Kishida and Sunak plan to “jointly address the remaining issues regarding membership”, they said, “so that the fastest possible conclusion can be reached”.

Japan is keen to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific”, they said, and to “fully support” the British government’s engagement in the region.

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