National / Politics

Japan, Britain agree closer on security cooperation

Kyodo

In their first-ever two-plus-two talks, Japan and Britain agreed Wednesday to enhance security cooperation, including the possible joint development of missile technology and an exercise to evacuate nationals from an overseas contingency.

The Japanese and British foreign affairs and defense ministers underscored readiness to enable the Self-Defense Forces and the British military to share supplies and transportation when deployed on U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Japan has already signed an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, or ACSA, with the United States and Australia.

The two countries agreed to explore ways in which the SDF and the British armed forces can engage in operations in such fields as post-disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

The participants — Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon — also agreed to consider joint exercises to prepare for future U.N.-led peacekeeping operations and a possible exercise to evacuate noncombatants from an overseas crisis.

SDF participation in such operations is a contentious topic in Japan as the Constitution restricts the use of arms overseas.

Britain has become the fifth nation to have a two-plus-two security relationship with Japan, following the United States, Australia, Russia and France. The framework enables nations to decide key strategic and security policies without delays caused by one department having to consult another.

In a joint statement, Japan said it “supported” the British commitment to the Asia-Pacific region; and Britain “welcomed Japan’s security reforms and its recent efforts to play a more active role in international efforts to secure peace, stability and prosperity.”

Meanwhile, Kishida and Nakatani asked Hammond and Fallon to consider using British assets to secure the release of two Japanese hostages being held by the Islamic State group.

“In particular, the ministers expressed strong indignation at the taking hostage of the two Japanese nationals” by the Islamic State, with Britain expressing “strong support, solidarity and readiness to cooperate with Japan,” the statement said.

Separately, Japan and Britain have already launched a joint study aimed at creating new biochemical protection gear and preparatory research on the development of an air-to-air missile component.

At the meeting, the Japanese and British ministers “welcomed the identification and launch of joint defense equipment and technology projects,” the statement said.

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