A “landmark” defence deal is set to be signed on Wednesday in London by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his U.K counterpart, Rishi Sunak. The Japan–UK Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) will allow both countries to station their military on the other country’s territory. As Tokyo continues to strengthen its network of security friends, this follows a similar arrangement that was reached with Australia.
The agreement, which is being hailed as the most significant defence pact between Tokyo and London in more than a century, is expected to accelerate the two countries’ already expanding defence and security cooperation in response to growing concerns regarding China’s military aspirations in the Indo-Pacific region.
It outlines which country’s laws would apply if a service member committed a crime or was at fault in an accident in another country. It also makes it possible for both countries to organise and carry out military drills and deployments on a significantly greater and more intricate scale.
It is Tokyo’s first agreement of this type with a European nation and its third overall. After years of negotiations, Japan signed a similar agreement with Australia in January. Before taking effect, both treaties must be ratified by their respective parliaments.
The deal will be presented to the Japanese and British parliaments “in the coming weeks,” according to Sunak’s office.
Although the U.K. leader did not specifically name China, the Asian powerhouse has been a driving force behind Britain’s strategic “tilt” toward the Indo-Pacific area. Sunak appeared to imply that competition with Beijing, among others, was likely in mind when signing the agreement.
The signature of the RAA will be viewed as just another indication of Tokyo’s desire to forge ever-closer security relations with several partner nations amidst escalating Sino-American tensions, particularly as Japan’s fears over the fate of democratic Taiwan intensify.
Beijing regards the self-governing island as a rebellious province that must be reunified with the Chinese mainland by whatever means necessary. Observers assert that a battle over Taiwan, which is strategically located near vital trade sea routes, would have major repercussions for Japan and Europe.
China was labelled “the greatest strategic challenge Japan has ever faced” in the most recent iteration of Japan’s National Security Strategy, and this designation stands to this day. As a direct result of this threat, significant shifts have taken place inside Japan’s security infrastructure. This includes a plan to acquire a counterstrike capability that enables long-range missile strikes against adversary command and control nodes and bases.
Jiji Press reported in May of last year that an agreement in principle had been reached on the Japan-United Kingdom pact after the two governments reportedly agreed to grant primary jurisdiction to the country sending troops over crimes committed in the other country if they are on duty or if the crimes inflict damage only on the country sending the troops. This was reportedly done after the two governments reportedly agreed to grant primary jurisdiction to the country sending troops over crimes committed in the other country if they are on duty or if they
The subject had been a source of disagreement for the United Kingdom, which had concerns regarding how the death penalty was carried out in Japan. The pact does not preclude the prospect that British service members who commit crimes while off duty could be executed in Japan; however, British officials have stated that diplomatic manoeuvring could reduce the likelihood of this happening.
The two leaders were also expected to discuss trade, including Britain’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Japan’s current presidency of the Group of Seven, and the need to maintain collective support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches.
The deal in London comes only weeks after Britain, Japan, and Italy joined forces to develop a next-generation fighter aircraft by 2035, marking the first time Tokyo will work with countries other than the United States to satisfy a significant defence need.
The Japanese Defense Ministry’s F-X fighter designs will be merged with those for the British Tempest under the new Global Combat Air Program.
Last month, Tokyo and London also formed a new digital collaboration to expand cooperation in cyber resilience, online safety, and semiconductors.
Japan hopes to lay the way for a successful G7 summit in Hiroshima on May 19-21. Kishida’s visit to the United Kingdom is the third stop in a five-country tour. The prime minister has already travelled to France and Italy and will meet with his counterparts in Canada on Thursday and in the United States on Friday.