OSAKA – Two more British warships will join a Royal Navy frigate in Japan by the end of the year to help enforce sanctions on North Korea, while plans are underway for British ground troops to conduct an exercise with their Japanese counterparts to assist in an international effort to enforce sanctions on Pyongyang, a senior British foreign ministry official said Friday.
Speaking to reporters in Osaka, Mark Field, who serves as minister of state for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Office, also said that a U.K.-Japan economic partnership agreement would not be difficult to achieve, with terms likely to be similar to the one Japan concluded with the European Union in December.
The Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland is in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, to help monitor North Korean trade at sea. Two other ships, the HMS Albion, an amphibious transport that can carry hundreds of marines, and the HMS Argyll are also scheduled to come to Japan.
“The HMS Albion is already in Singapore and will be moving in this direction in the weeks to come. The HMS Argyll will be coming to Japan towards the end of this year. The underlying thoughts are two-fold. One is that there are U.N. Security Councils that need to be properly implemented to ensure there is no breach of the sanctions against North Korea, particularly the sanctions on oil,” Field said.
“As far as troop deployments are concerned, there are troop exercises that will take place here in Japan. It’s to stand close with Japan given the disturbing aspects of North Korea’s belligerent conduct,” he added.
As for a proposed U.K.-Japan EPA, Japan has said it wants to prioritize the free trade framework with the EU with the aim of having take force by next year.
But Field said that, as the EU-Japan agreement was reached when the U.K. was in the EU, it should not be a problem to negotiate a separate bilateral free trade pact.
“We are very comfortable with the terms of the EU-Japan agreement and hope it will be ratified before we leave the EU in March 2019. So I hope the EU-Japan EPA terms will immediately be put into a bilateral agreement. This will not be difficult,” he said.
He added that a bilateral EPA would focus on growth sectors.
“Financial technologies, which now include cryptocurrencies, green finance, robotics, artificial intelligence, pharmaceuticals and life sciences. These are areas that will be the heart of whatever is built upon the terms of the EPA between the EU and Japan, and will likely be the heart of our bilateral cooperation in the decades ahead,” Field said.