LONDON - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Thursday with his British counterpart, David Cameron, to boost bilateral security cooperation, including sharing military supplies and jointly developing defense equipment.
Meeting at No. 10 Downing St., the two leaders also agreed to seek a substantive agreement in 2015 on free trade negotiations between Japan and the European Union, the first time such a specific goal has been stated in a leaders’ statement. Britain is one of the 28 members of the bloc.
On security issues, Abe and Cameron said in a statement released after the summit that their countries will launch negotiations on sharing supplies and transportation services between the Self-Defense Forces and the British military under an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, also known as an ACSA.
The countries will also set up a “two-plus-two” framework for security dialogue between their foreign and defense ministers, the statement said.
Japan has already concluded such agreements with the United States and Australia, while agreeing in principle to sign a deal with Canada.
Under the potential accord, Japan and Britain would help each other in humanitarian missions such as U.N. peacekeeping operations as well as responding to major natural disasters, according to Japanese officials.
The two-plus-two meeting with Britain will be Japan’s fifth following ones with the United States, Australia, Russia and France.
While aiming to deal with global security issues in cooperation with those countries, Japan also appears to be using the frameworks to get its message over on some regional challenges, most notably tensions over the assertive maritime policy of China, which is engaged in territorial disputes with Japan and other Asian neighbors.
Japan and Britain, both main allies of the United States, signed an agreement last year to promote cooperation in jointly developing defense equipment such as protective gear to deal with chemical and biological weapons, and preventing sensitive technological information from being leaked.
During Thursday’s meeting, Abe and Cameron confirmed they will accelerate such efforts, at a time when Japan has relaxed its rules on arms exports.
On the crisis in Ukraine, the prime ministers condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea. They agreed to respond in cooperation with other Group of Seven countries.
As Japan and the European Union have been in free trade talks, Abe and Cameron set the goal of achieving a substantive accord next year. The focus is now shifting to whether Abe and EU executives will release a similar statement when they hold a summit on Wednesday in Brussels.
Japanese and EU trade negotiators held their fifth round of talks last month. They announced no agreement on specific issues such as how to eliminate or reduce tariffs and other trade barriers.
Abe is on a six-nation tour of Europe. He arrived in Britain on Wednesday after visiting Germany on the first leg, where Chancellor Angela Merkel told Abe that she hails the efforts to reach the trade liberalization accord between Japan and the European Union, saying it would benefit the German economy, the biggest in the bloc.
Abe and Cameron also released a statement on cooperation in the energy sector. It said Japan and Britain consider atomic power to be a key element in pursuing a low-carbon energy future.