Thursday, 2 February, 2023

Japan racks up new security deals

Ottawa, Tokyo agree to boost security, economic ties

Japan racks up new security deals

TOKYO: Space defence, US troop deployments and a "hugely significant" deal with Britain: Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is collecting more than souvenirs on his whirlwind diplomatic tour, reports AFP.      

Defence has dominated his agenda this week in meetings with Group of Seven allies in Europe and North America, as the Japanese leader seeks to draw friends closer in the face of growing pressure from China, analysts say.      

Japan wants to normalise its "role as a great power", Amy King, associate professor at the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, told AFP.

It seeks "the kinds of strategic partnerships and defence relationships that are quite normal for other countries, but which have been largely off-limits to Japan" because of its pacifist post-war constitution.

Kishida's conversations have also touched on everything else from trade to climate issues, showing that he is trying to broaden Tokyo's relationships with its allies. Japan is "insuring itself against a decline in US capacity, and working to draw other major democratic states into Asia", King said.

The government unveiled a major defence overhaul in December, including doubling spending to two percent of GDP by 2027 and designating China the "greatest strategic challenge ever" to Japan's security. Kishida's diplomatic efforts "reflect that Japan's national defence cannot be done by Japan alone", said Mitsuru Fukuda, a professor at Nihon University who studies crisis management.

"In the past, Japan was able to separate economy and politics," doing business with countries like China and Russia while enjoying the security protections of its alliance with the United States.

But deepening friction between democratic and authoritarian countries, including over Russia's war in Ukraine, mean "we cannot do that anymore", he said.

US and Japanese foreign and defence ministers have already agreed to extend the nations' mutual defence treaty to space, and announced the deployment of a more agile US Marine unit on Japanese soil.

In Britain, Kishida signed a deal creating a legal basis for the two sides to deploy troops on each others' territory.

Japan made a similar agreement with Australia last year and discussions are underway for one with the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Thursday with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Ottawa where they committed to strengthen economic ties as well as their security partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.

"We talked a lot about how Canada can be a reliable supplier not just of energy, but of critical minerals of commodities and resources, including agricultural resources," Trudeau told a joint press conference in the Canadian capital.