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The British-Japanese relationship: a new era calls for a new alliance

The new online journal The British Interest has an article identifying where the Anglo-Japan (or really UK-Japan) relationship fits into the new era of Reiwa and Global Britain (link).

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“Quad” on the shelf. Meanwhile Japan-UK-US Trilateral of Maritime Democracies sails on.

Royal Navy Type 23 Frigate HMS Montrose makes a stop in Tokyo

US Admiral Philip Davidson (head of the Indo-Pacific Command) caused a stir with recent comments on discussions with Indian counterparts regarding the “quad” (a loose security grouping consisting of the Australia, Japan, USA, UK), which suggest that there is not “immediate potential” for it to realize a military dimension.

With perfect timing, another grouping of maritime democracies is poised to show what multilateral military cooperation looks like. From March 14th, Royal Navy type 23 Frigage HMS Montrose joins the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence forces (MSDF) and US Navy for a second sub-hunting exercise (following the one conducted in December 2018) pursuant to the 2016 trilateral maritime agreement.

More details available at the Diplomat, and the website of the US 7th Fleet:

Joining the 7th Fleet aircraft are RN Type 23 frigate, HMS Montrose (F236), Murasame-class destroyer JS Murasame (DD-101), P-1 JMSDF maritime patrol aircraft, and a JMSDF submarine.

HMS Montrose is on a 3 year deployment, which has included duties in the Gulf and UN sanctions enforcement around DPRK. This projection of maritime power is possible due to the UK`s global support infrastructure and an innovative method of rotating crews that allow Royal Navy ships to be active on duty around the globe for extended periods.

Along HMS Montrose` 5,500-mile journey from South America to New Zealand the type 23 Frigate (armed with the newly accepted Sea Ceptor anti-missile missile system intended to provide defence to the UK`s new Aircraft Carriers, that are expected in the region in a couple of years) also spent some time visiting Tahiti – the first time in 15 years a Royal Navy ship has visited the French island chain – 5,000 miles from Japan, 2,500 miles from Auckland. During her time in Tahiti, Montrose honed her air defense skills against a French Guardian Maritime Patrol Aircraft. And the French made use of HMS Montrose, practicing setting down one of their Dauphin helicopters on the flight deck – all before the British warship sailed into the capital Papeete. (detail courtesy of Navaltoday.com)

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Japan welcomes Gen. Carleton-Smith, Chief of the UK General Staff

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Trilateral Japan-UK-US Navy exercise

izumo copy

NHK reported a trilateral exercise involving the helicopter carrier (soon-to-be fixed wing aircraft carrier) Izumo and ships from the Royal Navy and US Navies.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force is to conduct its first joint drill with the US and British navies in the Pacific off southern Japan later this week. The MSDF says its largest destroyer, the Izumo, the British Navy’s HMS Argyll, and a US naval vessel will take part in the exercise. In the drill planned for Saturday, personnel will check the roles for each vessel and the procedures for information-sharing based on various scenarios, including conflict situations. The exercise is apparently aimed at showing the partnership among the three countries amid China’s increasing maritime activity. The mid-term defense program, approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, says Japan will actively promote bilateral and multilateral drills. The SDF will be given more opportunities to strengthen its partnerships with the forces of other countries.

A follow-up report is here on Def Post.

Another here in Stars and Stripes.

This gives form to the trilateral naval agreement signed in October 2016 at the Pentagon by the chiefs of all three navies, committing them to “strengthen maritime contributions for achieving mutually desired strategic effects”.

It is not quite the post-World War I “Four Powers Treaty” Britain, France, Japan and USA signed in 1923 in the wake of the Anglo-Japan Alliance (1902-1923), but it is getting there.

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Britain`s quasi-alliance with Japan

Chapter 2 in the just issued policy paper from the Elcano Institute: “Natural Partners? Europe, Japan and security in the Indo-Pacific”

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LS & US (Eds.), Natural Partners_ Europe, Japan and Security in the Indo-Pacific

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British Foreign Minister announces UK-Japan hotline

JAPAN-BRITAIN-DIPLOMACY

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt announced the installation of a hotline linking his office with counterparts in the Japanese government in a wide ranging speech on foreign policy (link) delivered at PolicyExchangeUK on 31 Oct 2018.

Jeremy Hunt explained that his office has for a long time had secure phone connections to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This reflects the famous “five eyes” intelligence family descended from the 1940s era. Is this a prelude to Japan being invited into the five eyes family, as recently suggested in an article in the Nikkei?

As an indication of how he sees Britain’s diplomacy developing in the post-Brexit era, Hunt announced that to “allow for the strengthening of important alliances”,  a secure phone connection with Japan has been installed.

A connection was also added to counterparts in France and Germany.

The speech placed this move in the context of a post-Brexit global Britain foreign policy that consists of:

“..adding links to the chain that will allow us to play our part in linking the countries that share our values.”

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UK assures Japan: “will not have to fight alone” #日英同盟

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Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders (UK Land Force Commander) shakes hands with Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Lieutenant General Yuichi Takada during a joint military drill in Oyama on October 2, 2018. Credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP

Some would question whether ‘alliance’ is the right term to describe the UK-Japan relationship. When you hear this, you might ask instead ‘is there a better word that 同盟 – “allies”? :

“Japan remains one of our most important strategic partners in the Asia-Pacific region and we welcome the opportunity to develop strong bi-lateral ties as well as demonstrate the UK’s approach to joint exercises. No nation operates alone and we want to assure Japan that they will not have to fight alone either”.

UK Land Force Commander Lt. General Patrick Sanders quoted in UK Daily Telegraph 

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