The defense ministers of Japan and Britain agreed Saturday to seek London’s greater involvement in the Asia-Pacific region in the wake of North Korea’s latest nuclear test and China’s maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Meeting in Tokyo, Gen Nakatani and his British counterpart Michael Fallon agreed to closely cooperate in a response to actions by North Korea, which said Wednesday it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Their meeting came a day after Japan and Britain’s foreign ministers held so-called “two-plus-two” security talks.
Despite the perception that Britain is drawing closer to Beijing for economic gain, Japan is keen to strengthen ties with the island nation not only to increase international pressure on North Korea but also to keep China in check.
North Korea’s nuclear test “significantly hurts the peace and security of the international community and cannot be accepted,” Nakatani told reporters after his talks with Fallon.
Underscoring the view that the situations in North Korea and the South China Sea undermine the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region, Nakatani said, “We have created a foundation with Britain, which upholds rules-based international order, to jointly raise our voices and cope” with security issues.
Nakatani and Fallon confirmed Friday during their two-plus-two meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond that the two sides would work “urgently” to adopt a new U.N. Security Council resolution against North Korea.
Given recent developments such as the resumption of South Korea’s loudspeaker broadcasts of anti-North Korea propaganda across its border with the North, Nakatani said his ministry will “keep close watch over the situation on the (Korean) peninsula with strong interest.”
The resumption is certain to draw a fierce backlash from Pyongyang, which has in the past threatened to fire artillery at the speakers.
On top of greater security cooperation between Japan and Britain, Nakatani and Fallon agreed to create a new framework aimed at helping the militaries of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations upgrade their security capabilities, Japanese officials said.
Four ASEAN members — Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines — and Taiwan are embroiled in competing territorial claims with China over islets in the South China Sea. ASEAN also comprises Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
China claims almost all of the sea, and its massive land reclamation work in the area has made the smaller Asian claimants uneasy.
During Saturday’s meeting, Nakatani expressed his concern about China’s fast-paced land reclamation activities, according to the officials.
Also regarding the spate of terrorist attacks worldwide, including Paris, Nakatani said, “We strongly condemn terrorism of every kind and reaffirmed the importance of the international community’s united front in counterterrorism measures.”
The two defense chiefs also agreed to a plan whereby British Typhoon fighters will fly to Japan this year for a joint drill with the Air Self-Defense Force.
Nakatani said he and Fallon also agreed that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the British military will conduct a joint drill during multilateral minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf.
Just as they confirmed in their two-plus-two talks, Nakatani and Fallon reiterated the two nations will speed up negotiations for the early conclusion of an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement. That would enable the SDF and the British military to share supplies and transportation services during U.N. peacekeeping operations.