Alliance Watch

A chronological record of the Anglo-Japan Alliance (1902-1923), and today’s emerging partnership or ‘New type of Alliance‘ 


Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty


Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce


Britain became the first Western power to revise its ‘unequal treaty’ with Japan.

Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation


– Britain declines to join the triple intervention of FranceGermany and Russia against the Japanese occupation of the Liaotung peninsula.


“The focus of international competition is moving steadily towards the Pacific Ocean and… Japan is obliged… to play an ever increasingly [sic] part in the peaceful development of that portion of the globe [cheers]. I sincerely hope … that these friendly feelings and mutual sympathies which have existed between us in the past shall be daily more strongly cemented in the future [cheers].”  Ito Hirobumi, London, 3 January 1902

– January 30th – Anglo-Japan Alliance concluded. Mutual recognition of interests on the continent (Britain in China, Japan in Korea), and countering Russia.


– August 12th – Anglo-Japan Alliance extended and expanded, or the ‘second alliance’ (as it is known in Japan) concluded. Mutual assistance to secure Japan’s interests in Korea and Britain’s interests in India (against Russia).


– June 10th – Franco-Japanese agreement concluded, mutual recognition of interests in Korea, Manchuria and Fukien (Japan), and in Indochina and South China (France).

– July 30th – Russo-Japanese agreement.


– Anglo-Japan Alliance renewed for 10 years, but Japan is warned not to expect British assistance in the event of war between Japan and America.


-Paris Peace Conference.


– Washington Conference sets naval balance among America, Britain and Japan at ration of 5:5:3. Alliance is not renewed.

William Forbes-Sempill, the Master of Sempill and the son of a Scottish peer, brought British instructors to nurture the Imperial Japanese Navy’s fledgling aerial component. The ‘Sempill Mission” was in Japan during 1921-23.


– Ratification of Four Powers Treaty (Britain, America, France and Japan) agreed at the Washington Conference closes the door on the Anglo-Japan Alliance.


Anglo-Japan relations entered a “dark valley” over this period, ably covered by Captain Malcolm Duncan Kennedy in his book “The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan, 1917-35”, published by Manchester University Press, 1 Oct. 1969.



Establishment of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group at the joint recommendation of the British and Japanese Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher and Yasuhiro Nakasone. The primary purpose of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group is to promote dialogue and cooperation between the two countries. Members include parliamentarians, business leaders and representatives from the media, think tanks and academia. At the Group’s annual conference, held alternate years in the UK and Japan, delegates discuss any issue that might affect our bilateral ties and make suggestions on how to enhance them. The Chairmen’s summary and recommendations from the conference are then sent to both Prime Ministers and to government departments for consideration and action.


January  Japan’s Defense Agency Director General Toshitsugu Saito visited Britain.


January – On the occasion of the visit of Japanese Defense Agency Director General Ishiba Shigeru to meet Minister Geoffrey Hoon, the Defense Ministers signed Memorandum Relating to Defense Cooperation to develop bilateral defense exchanges. 
Ishiba expressed Japan’s gratitude for Britain’s help in intelligence gathering and other issues over southern Iraq as it plans to deploy the GSDF team to the southern Iraqi city of Samawah. Ishiba asked for continuous support from Britain for Japan’s activities in Iraq. Hoon said that Britain and Japan have often shared interest in the past and called for continued cooperation between the two countries. He also said southern Iraq is relatively stable. The Ishiba-Hoon talks marks the first meeting in three years between the defense chiefs of the two countries since the Saito visit (above). 


January 9th – Japan-UK Joint Statement: A framework for the Future  

PM Abe, PM Tony Blair held their first summit meeting in London during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first official visit to the UK. The two Prime Ministers reviewed the state of the bilateral relationship between Japan and the UK, exchanged views on key issues of international concern and decided to establish a framework for enhanced co-operation between the two countries, specifically “to work towards achieving a set of objectives in the areas of international securityclimate changeinternational development and science, technology and innovation”. 


October 31st – UK Minister of Defence Philip Hammond visits Tokyo to discuss Defence Cooperation agreements with counterparts in Tokyo.

December 27th – Japan amends its Guidelines on the Overseas Transfer of Defence Equipment, opening up the possibility of trade and R&D cooperation that had been denied under the previous guidelines for interpreting the ‘Three Principles on Arms Exports’. This change permits Japan to export arms if they are: 1) to contribute to peace and international cooperation; or 2) to jointly develop or produce with a security partner or partners. This gives ‘partners’ an interesting statutory status – more than friends but less than allies?


April 10th – UK Prime Minister visits Japan and signs intergovernmental agreement to look into future partnering in the defense research and development sectors.

Extract from full text of agreement on “A Leading Strategic Partnership for Global Prosperity and Security“:

Reflecting the increased cooperation and engagement in the field of security and defence between the UK and Japan, we have decided:

  • to launch a Foreign Minister-led “Strategic Dialogue” with a view to sharing assessments and strategic views on the regional and international environment;
  • to start negotiations on a government to government information security agreement;
  • to endorse Defence Ministers signing the Defence Cooperation Memorandum at the next opportunity;
  • to build on the signature of this Memorandum and defence engagement, such as in research collaboration, by identifying new areas of cooperation;
  • to identify a range of appropriate defence equipment for joint development and production, that can be carried out in accordance with Japan’s 2011 Guidelines for Overseas Transfer of Defence Equipment etc. which contributes to both countries’ security and presents industrial opportunities;
  • to seek to launch at least one programme of such defence equipment as soon as possible and explore the feasibility of a future major programme that will also contribute to both our countries’ security and peaceful intent;
  • to consider appropriate government-to-government arrangements which will ensure strict control on third country transfer and on extra-purpose use of defence equipment; and
  • to explore ways to further strengthen our security and defence cooperation, including joint exercises, training and unit to unit affiliations.

Building on the initiative shown by the two Prime Ministers, Japan and the UK will deepen the existing dialogues between relevant Ministers and senior officials, to address the above mentioned issues in a joint effort to promote international prosperity and security.

June 3rd – UK and Japan exchange a memorandum to strengthen defense cooperation in various areas including cyberspace.

October – Japan’s Foreign Minister visited the UK for the First Japan-UK Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.

October – The idea of the trans-Eurasia alliance between Japan and Europe or Japan and UK “would make the world a more stable place” said Dr Chiaki Akimoto, the head of Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) new Japan office, at the RUSI Japan office launch.


June 17th – Bilateral summit led by PM Cameron and PM Abe on sidelines of G8 meeting.

(1) The two leaders welcomed specific progress that has been made in bilateral relations in the security and defense areas and reached agreement as follows:

  1. (a) In the wake of close bilateral cooperation in dealing with the recent terrorist attack in Algeria, the two countries should continue strengthening cooperation, recognizing the importance of international cooperation in counter-terrorism measures.
  2. (b) Having substantially reached agreements on a framework for defense equipment cooperation and on concluding a bilateral Information Security Agreement, Japan and the United Kingdom should aim to sign them soon. They should also conduct joint research on how to evaluate the performance of chemical protective clothing as a specific project for their defense equipment cooperation.
  3. (c) The two countries should continue cooperation in the cyberspace field.
  4. (d) They should devise future ways for high-level dialogue and exchanges between the two countries.
  5. (e) The two countries should study the installation of a video hotline between the two prime ministers’ offices as suggested at this year’s UK-Japan 21st Century Group meeting.

(2) After Prime Minister Abe explained Japan’s economic measures, the two leaders reached an accord to cooperate in Japan-European Union (EU) negotiations on concluding an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for further strengthening of economic relations between Japan and the United Kingdom. Specifically, they agreed to strive to create an environment that facilitates investment by Japanese businesses.

June 20th – Chatham House conference (opening their five-year UK-Japan Global Seminar), British MP Hugo Swire called Japan Britain’s ‘closest partner in Asia’. His counterpart at the Conference, Hiroaki Fujii, had earlier called the UK ‘Japan’s ‘most important partner in Europe’.

July 4th – UK-Japan sign  “Agreement on the Security of Information” and  “Agreement on the Framework of Defence Equipment”.

November – HMS Daring visits Japan. HMS Daring arrived in central Tokyo on Sunday 1 December, where it was berthed next to the Japanese ship Teruzuki for three days. British festivities to celebrate the ship’s visit were also held at the Yokohama Country Athletic Club from 3 to 6 pm on the afternoon of Sunday 1 December, including cricket and a performance by the Royal Marines Band.

November 27th – exchange of Liaison Officers between HMS Illustrious and DDS Ise to support bilateral coordination for HADR operations in the Phillippines (link).

December  Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff UK visited the JMSDF Staff College on Tuesday, 3 December 2013.


April 14th   Before an audience of 250 at the Japanese Diet, UK Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton advocated an ‘enhanced and formalised’ UK-Japan defence relationship that would help both countries cope with ongoing global and regional challenges. (link)

May – Prime Minister Abe visits London. Japan and the UK agreed to “start negotiations on an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement [ACSA]  (a military logistics support agreement to provide logistic, technical, and administrative support to each other’s forces) at an early date and hold their first ‘2+2′ foreign and defence ministerial meeting. Prime Minister Abe and Cameron’s joint statement added that they would “examine the opportunities and develop proposals” to make joint contributions to international peacekeeping efforts, military exchanges, joint exercises, operations and support, and “establishing a new mechanism to share information and analysis that supports the purposes of our co-operation” (link).

May 2nd – Vice Parliamentary Minister of Defence Kihara Minoru gave a speech at IISS entitled “Japan and the UK as strategic partners – toward further co-operation in the defence field” (link). Call to strengthen the UK-Japan relationship as a ‘trans-Eurasia relationship’ to compliment the trans-pacific relationship (Japan-US) and trans-Atlantic relationship (UK-US).

July 15 – Hugo Swire, Minister for Asia gave a speech entitled The UK in the Asian Century at the Carnegie Institute, Washington, on how a prosperous and stable Asia Pacific matters to British interests. The subtext was that Britain has its own intentions about playing a role in Asia (trade, peace and stability and values), but re-assured the Washington DC audience that “By closer co-operation on Asia Pacific, we [US and UK] can further strengthen Trans-Atlantic ties and together ensure that both our countries get the best from the Asian Century”.

July 17 – Japan and UK agree to joint development of missile technology for air-to-air ‘Meteor’ missiles  (link). The Meteor project, which is developing missiles for Eurofighter planes, is being led by Franco-British missile maker Matra BAe Dynamics (MBD) along with other European firms.

November  HMS Atherstone spent two weeks working in close company with the ships and staff of the Japanese 51st Mine Division in the waters of the Gulf. (Link)

Royal Navy deploys liaison permanent liaison officer to MSDF (double hatted with liaison function to US 7th Fleet). (Link)


January 12-13RUSI UK-Japan Strategic Dialogue.

January 212+2 meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers in London.

May 15 The deputy commandant of the UK Royal Marines, Brigadier Richard Spencer, visited Japan to advise the country’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) on creating a amphibious rapid reaction force to defend remote islands (link).

August UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond visits Japan, and voices support for PM Abe’s proposed security legislation expanding the role of Japan’s Self Defence Forces (link).

September 18 UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond congratulates Japan on new security legislation.

“I congratulate the Japanese Parliament on passing legislation that will allow Japan to play a greater role in international peace and security. The UK welcomes these security reforms, and we look forward to Japan taking an increasingly active part in peacekeeping operations and supporting international efforts to secure peace and prosperity. I look forward to further discussions with the Japanese government as it implements these important changes. We remain determined to work closely with Japan to defend and protect our global shared interests, and play our part in upholding the rules-based international system.”


October 16 Chiefs of the Japan Maritime  Self-Defence Force, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy and CNO of US Navy sign a statement of their trilateral maritime talks recognizing the opportunity to strengthen maritime contributions for achieving mutually desired strategic effects.  (link)

October to early November four RAF Typhoons visit Japan to conduct ‘Exercise Guardian North 16’ (Link).

November – soldiers from the Japanese Fuji Camp based GSDF recon unit participated in the exercise VAMBRACE WARRIOR in Wales, focused on  sustained Static Covert Surveillance (SCS) at range, close target reconnaissance and the terminal guidance of remote fires, against an Opposing Force element of specialist Counter-Surveillance (CS) and Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD). The JGSDF team participated in this exercise for one week, inserting into the area of operations covertly and constructed an observation post from which they reported on the Opposing Force movement undetected.  (link)


January 26 Agreement on reciprocal provision of supplies and services between armed forces of the UK and Self Defence Forces of Japan.

August 31 Japan UK Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (so-called 17 point plan)

UK PM Teresa May attends meeting of Japanese National Security Council.

December 14 Third ministerial 2+2 meeting, Joint statement


April – Anglo-Japan “alliance” crosses a threshold into the operational realm with RN Warships participating in UN sanctions enforcement alongside JMSDF (link)

Subsequently a UK Royal Navy officer joins the Enforcement Coordination Cell (ECC) that fuses information on sanctions enforcement from a “5-eyes plus” coalition including the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France and ROK.


UK Royal Marines visiting Japan on HMS Albion joined the Japan Self Defence Forces amphibious rapid deployment brigade (ARDB) activated just a few months prior, to conduct a joint exercise coming ashore from the HMS Albion and the Japanese Navy’s JS Shimokita. Although the exercise was canceled owing to a passing typhoon, the joint planning phase of the exercise went ahead (link).

British frigate HMS Argyle Japanese destroyer Inazuma and Japanese helicopter carrier Kaga take part in a joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean.

October – British Army exercises with GSDF on Japanese soil. Aside from the USA, this is the first time a foreign army has exercised on Japanese soil in the post-WWII era (link). More detail here.


September 29 – October 24 – Japan Ground Self Defence Forces exercise with HAC regiment in Gaerloch Head and Strone camp (Scotland). This is the first occasion where Japanese Ground Self Defence Forces have exercised in the UK. (link – Japanese language press release JGSDF)

November 18-20 – DSEI Defence conference debuts in Japan, the fist time the conference has taken place outside the UK. Speakers from UK Royal Navy and the London Metropolitan Police feature alongside Japanese, US and Australian speakers.

November 20 – Second Japan-UK-USA maritime trilateral agreement signed, detailing commitments and inviting others to join in combating “attempts to circumscribe freedom of navigation”.


Negotiations on an inter-service (UK Royal Navy – Japan MSDF) agreement to facilitate the sharing of maritime information between the United Kingdom and Japan and support safer international transportation.


February 3 – 2+2 Ministerial meeting. Joint statement. This meeting was the 4th UK-Japan 2+2 meeting and took place remotely due to Covid restrictions.

Japan-UK security and defence cooperation

(1) The Japanese side welcomed the UK’s announcement of the planned visit by HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and her Carrier Strike Group to the region including East Asia this year as an indication of the further commitment of the UK to the Indo-Pacific region. The four Ministers also shared the view to coordinate towards the implementation of joint exercises during this visit, as part of cooperation towards the realization of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

(2) The four Ministers welcomed the signing of a Maritime Security Arrangement to further security cooperation between the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the British Royal Navy as well as the steady progress made on the bilateral ground exercise which has taken place in Japan and in the UK to date. 

(3) The four Ministers shared the view to continue cooperation on capacity-building for developing countries in a wide range of areas including maritime security in order to realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

(4) The four Ministers also reaffirmed that they would further promote practical cooperation on monitoring and surveillance activities against illicit ship-to-ship transfers by North Korea-related vessels.

(5) Regarding defense equipment and technology cooperation, the four Ministers welcomed the ongoing dialogues on the Future Combat Air System/F-X at subsystem level, emphasised the importance of the research programme for the demonstration of a joint new air-to-air missile and welcomed progress made on the Project for Cooperative Research on the Feasibility of a Japan and Great Britain Universal Advanced RF system.

Conclusion of the JMSDF/Royal Navy’s agreement to facilitate the sharing of maritime information between the United Kingdom and Japan and support safer international transportation.

The four Ministers confirmed to work together on the Carrier Strike Group’s visit to East Asia so that it will be an opportunity to elevate Japan-UK defence cooperation to a new level.

July – Visit of UK delegation led by Defence Minister Ben Wallace (but including Royal Navy 1st Sea Lord and RAF Chief of Staff) covered here


July 20 Japan-UK Defense Ministerial Meeting

On July 20, 2021, commencing at 13:00 for approximately 60 minutes Minister KISHI held a Defense Ministerial Meeting with Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Ben Wallace.

1  The two Ministers welcomed their first face-to-face meeting and Minister Kishi welcomed the accompanying of the 1st Sea Lord and the Chief of Air Staff to Japan. Secretary Wallace welcomed the recent deepening of Japan-UK defense cooperation and stated that the UK would like to strengthen cooperation with Japan that shares the same values. Minister Kishi stated that Japan and the UK, as countries who share fundamental values, should address together challenges that we are facing in the Indo-Pacific.

2  With respect to the Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) led by HMS Queen Elizabeth on its way to Japan, the two Ministers shared the recognition that through bi/multilateral exercises and the CSG21’s visit to Japan:

  1. the defense cooperation between Japan and the UK—standing on a long history and tradition—has elevated to a “new level;”
  2. the UK’s commitment to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is a robust and an irreversible one; and
  3. Japan-UK defense cooperation serves not only for the security of Japan but for securing the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region and the international community, and that it will also tackle global challenges.

3  The two Ministers confirmed that, during the CSG21 visit to Japan, HMS Queen Elizabeth would berth at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, and that the other escort ships would dispersedly berth at the following ports: JMSDF Yokosuka, JMSDF Maizuru, JMSDF Kure, U.S. naval base Sasebo and the White Beach area.

4 The two Ministers affirmed accelerated discussion to explore FX/FCAS collaborations at sub-system level, with a special focus on Power and Propulsion System. Furthermore, both Ministers also agreed to intensify efforts toward a bilateral arrangement between both ministries that is necessary for implementing that collaboration of Power and Propulsion System, if it is agreed to be conducted. They welcomed that a new cooperative research on chemical and biological protection technology was started this month.

5  The two Ministers also exchanged views on the regional issues in the Indo-Pacific. Regarding the East China Sea and the South China Sea, they once again expressed their will to strongly oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion, and any activities that escalate tension regarding the situation. They concurred the importance of a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

6  Regarding North Korea, the two Ministers condemned the launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea which violate UNSC resolutions and pose a threat to the peace and stability of the region, and shared the view that, including the repeated launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea thus far, those posed a serious challenge to the international community as a whole. Upon that, the two Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to closely coordinatetoward the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of all of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, including collaboration on responses against “ship-to-ship transfers.”


Following collapse of the Afghan government, on 17th August UK military aircraft evacuate 12 Japanese embassy steff from Kabul  to UAE. (link)


The UK and Japan agreed a ‘Memorandum of Cooperation’ which enables both nations to pursue joint technologies. “Together, the UK and Japanese Defence Ministries will explore the feasibility of further sub-systems collaboration throughout 2022.”


September – HMS Tamar participated in monitoring and surveillance activities against illicit maritime activities, including ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels prohibited by the United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) in waters surrounding Japan including the East China Sea. It was the ninth time for the UK Royal Navy to engage in such activities since 2018.

December 9th – UK, Japan and Italy announce the merger of programs on 6th generation fighter aircraft into a ‘Global Combat Air System’.

December – The 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 104 Regiment Royal Artillery training in conjunction with their Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) equivalents, took part with the Royal Marines in Exercise Vigilant Isles 22, in Japan.


January – UK Parachute Regiment train with Japan GSDF and Australian forces in Japan.

12th – Japan and the UK signed the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), which provides the legal basis for troops to enter into each-other’s countries with weapons and equipment and conduct military exercises (link for details).

RAA text



19th UK-Japan Semiconductors Partnership (link)

3 responses to “Alliance Watch

  1. Pingback: Royal Navy establishes permanent liaison in Japan for partnership with USN and JMSDF | Anglo-Japan Alliance

  2. Pingback: Are ‘strategic partners’ the new ‘allies’? | Anglo-Japan Alliance

  3. Pingback: Trilateral Japan-UK-US Navy exercise | Anglo-Japan Alliance

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