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
Is the “Strategic Partnership” the new type of Alliance we have been waiting for? According to Rajesh Basrur & Sumitha Narayanan Kutty in The Hindu, it may not make sense any longer to strive for the exalted status ‘allies’, because “Alliances are passé“:
We live in a world today driven by “strategic partnerships”. States find themselves in an interdependent system where the traditional power politics of yesteryear doesn’t quite fit. After all, every major relationship characterised by strategic tension such as U.S.-China, Japan-China, India-China is simultaneously one of economic gain. The U.S. and China are each other’s chief trading partners, while China ranks at the top for Japan and India. Besides, India might confront China at Doklam but it also wants Chinese investment.
This is an observation with relevance for the Anglo-Japan relationship as well. According to Busrur and Kutty, strategic partnerships and alliances differ on the following points:
- they do not demand commitments to a partner’s disputes with other countries. That means both parties retain the flexibility to continue political engagement and economic cooperation with their common adversary. As a result –
- they avoid “entrapment”, or being dragged into a partner’s disputes and potentially into conflict. Instead –
- regular high-level political and military interactions facilitate a collaborative approach to strategic policies over a range of economic and military activities.
The aims of major strategic partnerships are described as follows: Continue reading