Tag Archives: Abe

P.M. Abe’s 2 day visit to London, May 2014


P.M. Abe’s visit to the UK on 1-2 May was relatively light on security and defence aspects of the relationship, and talk of ‘a new type of alliance’ was absent (though Abe again used his notion of the UK and Japan as ‘a priori partners’).

There were two main take-aways: (1) a commitment to launch negotiations towards an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which would enable British forces and the Japanese Self Defence Forces to support one-another in logistics on operations; (2) a commitment to hold ‘2+2’ talks, between Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries.

Topics discussed with P.M. Cameron included Toshiba/Westinghouse investment in the UK nuclear industry, cooperation via the G7 on countering Russia’s moves in Ukraine and energy diversification (preparation for the June G7 summit in Brussels), Japan-EU free trade agreement, and cooperation on preparations for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Here is an extract from the speech Abe delivered “Redefining Japan-UK Relations”at the Welcoming Dinner Hosted by the City of London,Thursday, May 1, 2014:

“Proactive Contribution to Peace” and Japan-UK relations
I would like to close my remarks this evening by stating that in the area of security as well, our two countries are poised to have ties of a nature altogether different from what we have had until now.

This past December, a tremendous typhoon struck the Philippines.  It was at this time that the HMS Illustrious of the Royal Navy and the JDS Ise of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force worked together to rescue and assist the disaster victims.

Believing that world peace and international public goods such as freedom of aviation and navigation are best safeguarded through the efforts of nations that value the rule of law and uphold democracy and freedom, my government, wishing to uphold our responsibilities in that regard, has decided to carry the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace.”

The cooperation demonstrated between the Ise and the Illustrious is the best endorsement of the fact that Japan’s new banner of Proactive Contribution to Peace can be pursued even more fittingly when nations having the same aspirations and values work together.

I am of a belief that going forward, Japan and the UK should work more closely in collaboration with each other, together shouldering responsibilities from the peace of the seas to the security of the skies, space, and cyberspace.

I believe that we should deepen our association on a routine basis so that we are able to execute the cooperation that was achieved between the Ise and the Illustrious whenever necessary.

Today, seeking to make this a reality, Prime Minister Cameron and I agreed that we would have our Joint Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations, often referred to as “2 + 2” meetings, on a regular basis, and that we would carry out a closer level of consultations between the heads of our respective National Security Secretariats.

We have already entered into cooperation in the field of defence equipment.  We will also make steady efforts towards the conclusion of an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement between the U.K. and Japan.

On May 2nd, Japan’s Vice Parliamentary Minister for Defence Kihara Minoru gave a speech at IISS entitled ‘Japan and UK as Strategic Partners – towards further co-operation in the defence field‘, which called for strengthening of UK-Japan relations as a ‘trans-Eurasian relationship’ which would compliment the trans-Pacific (Japan-US) and trans-Atlantic (UK-US) relationships.  

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Japan and Great Britain: ‘A priori partners’

PM Shinzo Abe addressing the RUSI conference (source, RUSI)

PM Shinzo Abe addressing the RUSI conference (source, RUSI)

PM Shinzo Abe’s keynote speech at the RUSI conference on UK-Japan security (September 30 – October 1 2013) gave us a partial understanding of his plans for the UK-Japan relationship in the field of security (here in Japanese). Unfortunately I couldn’t be there, but I drew the following conclusions from reading the text  published afterwards:

1) Maritime security

Apparently this will be the focus of cooperation in the security relationship between the UK and Japan. This was a common denominator in all dimensions of the speech.

a) History:

“Japan learned the A to Z of modern navy entirely from the U.K”.

Cooperation in WWI was also referenced in terms of operations in the Mediterranean.

b) Symbolism: Prince Andrew (also in attendance) is an ex RN officer, well known for having taken part in operations in the Falklands War.

c) Strategy:

“great things are expected of the Japan-U.K. partnership also in the Northern Sea Route that is about to newly open up”

d) Law and order: UK-Japan cooperation on upholding the Law of the Seas seems to be the preferred framework for translating grand vision into practical action.

2) Light on specifics, heavy on ‘great expectations’

“Our two countries with such a history are poised to make a tremendous advance through our cooperative security relationship… this year may come to be appraised by our progeny and by historians as a year in which breakthroughs were achieved”.

Again, this point was substantiated with reference to the upcoming visit of the UK’s First Sea Lord and HMS Daring. Watch this space.

But what is this ‘a priory’ description about? In terms of philosophy ‘a priory’ refers to an argument that is self-evidently true, not requiring evidence to demonstrate its validity (e.g. all batchelors are unmarried).

Abe clarified what he meant by saying the relationship ‘evolved organically’, which I took to mean the UK and Japan had so much in common (Monarchy, island history, skill in balancing tradition and innovation) that it was somehow inevitable that they would become allies.

By comparison with Japan-US relations, the anchor of which is routinely ascribed to ‘shared values’ of democracy, rule of law and free trade –  is the implication that UK-Japan relations are based on something less technocratic, and more connected with culture and national psychology. More…organic. Personally I find this vaguely compelling. I can also see how Abe’s attitude to the present constitution of Japan (that it was a post-war ‘imposition’ by the US) reflects some ambivalence to ‘man-made’ – (contrasted with ‘organic’) framework of values.

3) It’s OK to mention the war.

The UK-Japan partnership allows Abe to highlight a relationship with a WWII enemy country that has healed well. This can also be said of the Japan-US partnership, and that with Australia and New Zealand, in contrast to that with China and Korea, among others. This may not be of much use in ameliorating the effects of ‘war memory’ in other bilateral relations, however. Paradoxically, the feelings between UK/Japan over WWII  have healed comparatively well because of the distance between their homelands – the distance that is the main obstacle to constructing meaningful relations today. The contest was over colonial claims and hardly touched respective home territory. Having said that, the occupation of Shanghai, Singapore and Malaya and related issues of POW treatment meant that our war experience was not purely of a military-to-military nature.

Is this perhaps an indication that ‘war memory’ is not quite the right term for this problem in Japan’s relations with its neighbors? When it comes to China and Korea, is the problem more about colonial memory than war memory? That remains a more difficult area of history for the UK as well. Then might there be scope for joint UK-Japan cooperation on healing the scars of colonial history?

4) Knowledge and wisdom as the currency of the security partnership.

This is a logical response to the limits distance imposes on how much the UK and Japan can do together in terms of physical security cooperation. The ‘networked world’ Abe referred to is presumably a reference to cooperation in the realm of cyber security and intelligence generally.

5) Relations with the USA

“Of course, the United States remains our ever-unchanging primary cooperation partner. This is certainly also true for the United Kingdom. On that basis, I would like to state my eagerness for Japan and the United Kingdom to exchange knowledge and share experiences with each other and walk forward together, as partners who jointly accept responsibility for world peace and stability.”

Interesting nuances here. These two sentences conjure up an image of the UK and Japan  sharing notes on how to handle its alliance relationship with the US. This is open to at least two interpretations – that lessons can be learned on how to make the relationship work, and that lessons on being a junior partner can be shared in order to make the alliance work better for Japan and the UK.

6) Economy

Abe ended the speech with a revealing coupling of how he sees the importance of economy and security –

“First of all, we will strengthen the economy. Nothing will get underway until we achieve that”


“The reason we will strengthen the economy is of course in order to leave to future generations a Japan that is secure and enjoys peace of mind. It is also because we strive to be a nation that is able to fulfil its duties to the world, in a manner appropriate for this banner of “proactively contributing to peace.””

What is the audience to conclude? That the economy comes first, but not because of a value judgment about its priority for the Japanese people, but because it is a prerequisite, or a means to an end of security and influence?


The speech identified the main areas of cooperation in the future: upholding or defending the rules governing maritime security, (including the high north), intelligence, US alliance management. The Japanese version of the theme for Abe’s speech was ‘towards a new 21st century relationship’ – not quite the same as ‘rejuvenating’ the relationship, and not quite as eyebrow-raising as ‘a new type of alliance‘. But in general, the speech raised expectations, promising great things to come. The question is now that PM Abe has articulated how he sees the relationship from Japan’s perspective – who will present the UK point of view?


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UK-Japan Security Conference

There will be a conference on UK-Japan security on October (link) on 30 September and 1 October, attended by PM Abe and the Prince Andrew (Duke of York).

The event was advertised on the Japan 400 website.

In developing UK-Japan security cooperation, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the world’s renowned and oldest defense and security think tank, will stage a special conference on “UK-Japan Security in 2013″ in Tokyo in this October . The RUSI delegation will be headed by His Royal Highness the Duke of York and former British ministerial members. Top-level politicians and leaders in defense field from Japan, UK and US will also attend the conference. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Adm Dennis C. Blair, the US former Director National Intelligence, will make a special speech in our conference.

Final details to be confirmed.

Please see the RUSI website

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