Two recent publications in the East-West Center Asia Pacific Bulletin series look at how the UK and Japan might continue to develop their “alliance” in future. Reading them produces an echo of the strategic challenge both – as island nations – must historically face: trade-offs and tensions between commitments that must be made towards both continental and oceanic security partners.
For the UK the Continent means (mostly) the EU, and there is now work to be done re-designing UK-EU security cooperation for the post-Brexit era. The Atlantic alliance has for recent generations resolved the choice of ocean and continent for the UK, but the ‘pivot’ of US attention to Asia (defined not by recent US policy initiatives, but by long term geo-economic trends in Europe as well as Asia) will dislodge NATO centrality in UK defence and security policy. British efforts to revive defence cooperation with Japan is itself part of the response to those trends.