Japan and the United Kingdom to strengthen geopolitical ties
Kanako Mita and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The United Kingdom and Japan are strengthening geopolitical ties based on the growing rise of China. In theory, the mantra is a free and open Indo-Pacific. However, in reality, it is the containment of China – alongside America, Australia, and other allies in a collective effort that appears to be expanding.
NHK reports, “Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu and Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo held an online meeting with their British counterparts Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace on Wednesday for about two hours. It was the fourth so-called “two-plus-two meeting” between the two countries.”
The upshot is that both nations agree to strengthen ties based on the need of preserving an open Indo-Pacific. Hence, Japan and the United Kingdom fear the emergence of an external maritime power that threatens the status quo. Therefore, Japan, the United Kingdom, and other Western allies are reiterating the same mantra that is aimed at China.
The human-rights angle concerning Hong Kong and Xinjiang in China also came to the fore. Yet both nations provide tacit support for Indonesia despite the oppression of the Christian Papuans in West Papua. Likewise, the United Kingdom and Bangladesh have cordial relations despite the mainly indigenous Buddhists of the Chittagong Hill Tracts facing systematic persecution. Thus the human-rights angle is a convenient tool because the crisis in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, West Papua, and other issues are brushed under the geopolitical carpet.
In a recent article by Modern Tokyo Times, it was stated, “Political elites in China will notice the endless anti-China foreign policy nuance under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Of course, the former leader of Japan, Shinzo Abe, sought alliances with various nations throughout the Asia-Pacific and further afield. However, Abe was more diplomatic towards China and the Russian Federation.”
It should be noted that the United Kingdom via the Commonwealth does have a special relationship with many nations throughout Asia. For example, the nations of Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, and others. Therefore, the United Kingdom is an important strategic ally of Japan based on the winds of history.
Yet, Japan and the United Kingdom should not overtly play the “containment of China card” along with America. Instead, both nations should focus on mutual self-interests while strengthening inter-military and other ties. At the same time, Japan and the United Kingdom should strengthen ties with other regional democracies throughout the Asia-Pacific and America; while also reaching out to China where possible. After all, the economic angle of China and international supply chains are obvious angles of interconnectivity.
Hence, it is hoped that bridges will be built once all parties understand that parity and the status quo is much better than a new wall that leads to greater hostility. Therefore, while Japan welcomes the British strike group and the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the waters of East Asia later this year, a more nuanced approach towards China is needed.
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