Japan has been looking beyond the U.S. and Asia for allies that share its vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” recently, just as European nations have begun to turn their attention toward the region, alarmed at Beijing’s behavior in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the East and South China seas.
On Tuesday, the foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Germany held their first-ever “two-plus-two” meeting, having concluded a military info-sharing deal only last month. During the videoconference, Japan proposed joint drills involving the Self-Defense Forces and the German military to coincide with Berlin’s dispatch of a frigate to the region this year.
The Japanese side also proposed joint surveillance with Germany of North Korean ship-to-ship transfers of goods at sea. A French vessel joined the surveillance effort in February for the second time in two years, as Paris too has begun stepping up activities in the Indo-Pacific, where it has territories.
Also due for a visit this year is Britain’s Royal Navy, which is sending an aircraft carrier over for exercises with the SDF and U.S. forces. In an API Geoeconomic Briefing, research fellow Yuka Koshino argues that with London and Tokyo on the same page as regards Beijing’s rise, now is the right time for talks to further align their diplomatic, economic and security interests.
One area where they diverge, however, is on the idea of expanding the Group of Seven. Britain is eager to involve three more nations in the mix at the upcoming summit in the U.K., but Japan is reportedly worried this might open the door to full membership and jeopardize its place as the sole Asian member.
Columnist David Howell sees merits to the idea of a D10 (any guesses what the D stands for?) to replace the G7 in the 21st century, but shares the concerns of the G7’s other European members that such a grouping might look like an anti-China alliance spoiling for a fight.