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British-Japanese Defense Cooperation and the G7’s Struggle Against China

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After Brexit, the UK started to focus on global issues by declaring its autonomy from Continental Europe. London, which opened the Indo-Pacific, has increased its political, economic and military presence there. In this direction, it took action to sign free trade agreements with the growing economies of the region, and at the same time tried to establish a permanent military-navy presence in the Indo-Pacific. As part of this mission, the UK advocated for a holistic approach to security issues and the expansion of the mandate of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It argued that a war between China and Taiwan would jeopardize world peace and security. Thus, connecting Russia’s War in Ukraine with the Taiwan Issue, Britain tried to gather all Western powers around and behind this issue. As a result of these efforts, the G7 platform has also started to focus on the “Chinese threat”.

The G7 is seen as an alliance of Western democracies, with Japan assuming the presidency in 2023. From January 9-13, 2023, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida visited bloc members France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America (USA) in preparation for the G7 Leaders’ Summit scheduled for Tokyo in May 2023. The main purpose of Kishida in these contacts is to join forces in security and defense policies and to ensure coordination among bloc members. Using the advantage of being the term president, Japan will try to make the G7 countries focus on the “China threat” this year.[1] In this context, it is seen that Japan and England especially agree on the fight against China and act together to limit it.

It is reported that on the occasion of Kishida’s visit to London, the two states signed a defense agreement as a show of strength, especially against the “Chinese threat”.[2] The defense cooperation in question is the signing of the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA). The agreement allows the two countries to provide accommodation and supply at each other’s bases. Negotiations between the British and Japanese delegations in order to cooperate on this issue had been going on for about a year, and in fact, it was agreed to sign this agreement in May 2022.[3] Therefore, it would not be correct to interpret the agreement, which has only been signed today, as a surprise development.

More importantly, Japan continues to sign similar agreements with its other allies. Japan, which has already signed an RAA with India and Australia, is finally taking a step in this direction with the UK. Thus, establishing a coalition group in the Indo-Pacific through bilateral defense alliances, Japan takes precautions against the threat of attack from China. Such groupings show that the Western states give weight to the bloc politics. This is similar to small alliances formed before major wars. From this perspective, when there is a threat of attack in the region, Japan will seek support from the USA as per security agreements and from states such as India, Australia and England thanks to other bilateral agreements. Even if the states that signed the RAA with Japan declare their neutrality in a possible war, they may be drawn into the war if their bases are used by Tokyo.

In addition to the issues mentioned above, Japan is also trying to establish a military partnership with Italy. As a matter of fact, Kishida visited Italy before going to England as part of his European tour. As a result of the contacts here, it was decided to establish a strategic partnership in the field of defense between Japan and Italy.[4] Recently, an agreement was signed between Italy, the UK and Japan, which envisages cooperation in the production of sixth generation fighter jets.[5] At the same time, talks had begun between Italy and Japan on organizing military exercises and developing military cooperation last year. As a result of this, it can be said that Tokyo has succeeded in attracting Rome to its side in the field of defense.

Japan is also trying to establish military partnerships with Germany in the Indo-Pacific and hosted the German warship Bayern in its ports in 2022. Both Italy and Germany are G7 countries and agree to support Japan’s defense. At this point, it should be noted that; Germany avoids targeting China. This is why Kishida bypassed Germany during his European tour to get support from the bloc countries. In other words, Japan does not expect much from Germany in the fight against China. In this sense, he thought that there was no point in going to Germany and meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Kishida’s goal is to develop cooperation with countries that can give the most hawkish fight against China. These are the USA and the UK.

Although it is not one of the G7 countries, it is necessary to briefly mention the importance of India in the eyes of Japan. Tokyo is trying to develop maritime cooperation with New Delhi, which is not too keen on approaching the Pacific coast. Under normal circumstances, India refrains from cooperating with Japan on the seas to avoid China’s reaction. However, Tokyo is pulling New Delhi into this alliance by persuading. In addition, the idea of encircling China in cooperation with Japan is attractive to India.

Despite being excluded from the G7, India is a valuable partner for both Japan and the UK. Aiming to establish a permanent maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific, the UK sought to improve maritime cooperation by visiting Indian ports.[6] In the future, it can be foreseen that the UK will cooperate more in the seas, especially with Japan and India. But Britain has not been willing to include Japan in military alliances in the Pacific until today. In other words, the London administration did not look forward to including foreign actors in the alliance in the Pacific under normal conditions. In order to overcome this, the UK finds it more appropriate to sign bilateral defense agreements with Japan. As a result, it can be argued that this coalition will expand further as the G7’s war against China deepens.


[1] “Japan Pushes for Stronger Cooperation to Counter China at G7”, The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2022/06/japan-pushes-for-stronger-cooperation-to-counter-china-at-g7/, (Date of Accession: 12.01.2023).

[2] “Brexit Britain Signs Defence Pact with Japan in Show of Strength Against China Threat”, Express, https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1719612/brexit-britain-defence-pact-japan-against-china-threat-trans-pacific-partnership-ont, (Date of Accession: 12.01.2023).

[3] “Japan, U.K. Agree on Defense Pact Amid China’s Rise İn Indo-Pacific”, Kyodo News, https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2022/05/7323f9ef85f8-urgent-japan-britain-agree-on-defense-cooperation-pact.html, (Date of Accession: 12.01.2023).

[4] “Italy, Japan Agree to Strategic Partnership on Defence, Culture”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/italy-japan-agree-to-strategic-partnership-on-defence-culture/, (Date of Accession: 12.01.2023).

[5] “UK, Italy and Japan Team Up for New Fighter Jet”, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-63908284, (Date of Accession: 12.01.2023).

[6] “India Is First Port of Call for UK Ship in Indian Ocean”, RTV Online, https://www.rtvonline.com/english/international/9718/India-is-first-port-of-call-for-UK-ship-in-Indian-Ocean, (Date of Accession: 12.01.2023).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.