Japan-UK defense pact a dangerous step to expand AUKUS: Chinese experts

Xu Keyue, Global Times, November 6, 2022 — As Japan and the UK are reportedly set to sign a defense pact in December to enhance cooperation with the US under the so-called “Indo-Pacific Strategy” and counter China, Chinese observers warned this could be the first dangerous step to expand AUKUS, a trilateral security pact among Australia, the UK and the US, further threatening regional peace and stability.

The eastward expansion of NATO to China’s doorstep is not realistic, but it is more in line with the actual needs of the US to form a larger military alliance around China on the basis of AUKUS, observers said.

The UK and Japan will sign a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), the Financial Times (FT) on Sunday cited two people familiar with the talks as saying.

Japanese media outlet NHK reported on Friday that during a phone call on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak, have agreed to push forward work to sign the Japan-UK RAA that would stipulate how to organize joint exercises between Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the British military.

This will follow a similar deal Japan signed with Australia and is another sign of Tokyo forging deeper defense ties with allies and partners to prepare for the possibility of “a Taiwan emergency,” FT noted.

Japan and Australia signed a new bilateral security agreement covering military and intelligence in October, in a move that Chinese experts said shows the two countries’ willingness to be pawns of the US, while threatening regional peace and security.

According to the FT report, the UK-Japan pact will make joint exercises and logistics cooperation between the UK and Japan easier. It will also set a legal framework to simplify cumbersome bureaucratic red tape for the entry of troops into each other’s countries, said the report.

Considering that the US appeared to have invested high hopes in its two close allies, desiring the UK to be its agent in Europe and Japan to be another in the Asia-Pacific, closer military cooperation between the UK and Japan is apparently being pushed forward under US pressure, which can pave the way for introducing Japan into AUKUS, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.

But the effect of the UK-Japan pact would be no more than “loud thunder and little rain,” said Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.

Compared with the pact between Japan and Australia, the practical impact of this potential pact would be very limited especially if the two nations try to target the Taiwan question, Da said, noting that the UK is far away and Japan has less military interaction with the UK.

Previously, top White House officials held sensitive talks in London in April about the role the UK could play in the event of a conflict over Taiwan, according to the FT report.

The final agreement on the pact and cooperation on fighter jets are contingent on political developments in the UK, where Sunak recently became the third prime minister in two months, the FT cited people familiar with the RAA talks as saying.

Separately, Japan is in the preliminary stages of considering a similar pact with the Philippines, which Christopher Johnstone, a former Pentagon official said would be much more significant, FT reported.

Da pointed out that Japan is desperately trying to woo more international powers into the Asia-Pacific to contain China as it realizes it is very risky to purely depend on the US, which is likely to have a more divided government after the upcoming midterm elections.

The FT revealed that Japan is in advanced talks with the US to acquire Tomahawk cruise missiles, “which would allow it to strike targets in eastern China.”

This only exposes Tokyo’s wishful thinking of unleashing its military development, Da said.

Song said that the possibility of bringing Japan and even Canada into the AUKUS alliance in the near future could not be ruled out as it could be an important consideration for the US in order to realize its global strategy.

China should be on high alert to an expansion of AUKUS, as closer military cooperation between Japan and the UK and Japan and Australia could be the first dangerous step for the US to reinvent a global military alliance, Song stressed.

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