Japan, UK renew security ties, aircraft carrier to deploy in 2025

Tokyo is seeking to shore up its alliances amid heightened tension in the Asia-Pacific over North Korea, Taiwan.

A helicopter takes off from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth with the ship's bridge in the background and a blue sky with scattered clouds
The UK's Carrier Strike Group made its first visit to the region in 2021 [File: Jay Allen/EPA]

The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will sign a new agreement to deepen security ties, including a UK commitment to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group to the Indo-Pacific in 2025.

The so-called “Hiroshima Accord” will also cover trade and investment, collaboration on science and technology and joint initiatives to tackle global issues such as climate change, according to a statement from Sunak’s office released ahead of the signing in Hiroshima on Thursday.

“The Hiroshima Accord will see us step up cooperation between our armed forces, grow our economies together and develop our world-leading science and technology expertise,” Sunak said. “It marks an exciting next phase in the UK and Japan’s flourishing partnership.”

Under the agreement, the United Kingdom will deploy its Carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Pacific in 2025, and double troop numbers in upcoming joint military exercises.

The two countries will also agree on a formal “Consult Clause”, under which the UK and Japan commit to consult each other on important regional and global security issues and consider measures in response.

London and Tokyo are deepening ties amid heightened tensions in the Asia Pacific over North Korea’s advancing weapons programme and China’s increasingly assertive positions on issues such as Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety.

In January, Japan announced plans to strengthen security ties with the United States amid concerns about China, which the two countries said posed an “unprecedented” threat to international order. Japan is also part of the Quad security alliance with Australia, India and the US.

Japan and the UK will stage the joint Vigilant Isles military exercises in Japan later this year. It is the fourth time the drills are being held and about 170 UK personnel are scheduled to take part, including from the 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles and 16 Air Assault Brigade.

The UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and its flotilla of Royal Navy ships made its maiden voyage to the region in 2021, travelling via India, Singapore and the South China Sea to South Korea and Japan.

In 2025, the fleet is expected to work alongside the Japanese Self Defence Forces and other regional partners “to help defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific”, the statement said.

The new accord will also include science and technology programmes to support UK-Japan collaboration between universities and companies, the rapid development of green technologies and a Semiconductors Partnership.

Sunak is due to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday and will meet key Japanese business leaders in Tokyo.

The UK has been looking to deepen relationships with countries outside Europe after leaving the European Union, the world’s biggest single market.

Source: Al Jazeera