Ambassador Expects UK To Strengthen Defence Links With Japan

Video: British Ambassador to Japan, Paul Madden, speaks to Forces News.

The British Ambassador to Japan says he expects the two countries to strengthen defence links as they prepare for joint military land exercises. 

The UK will become only the second nation to have conducted land military exercises with Japan on Japanese soil  - which is evidence of the nations' "enhanced security relationship", according to the British Ambassador to Japan, Paul Madden.

50 UK soldiers and 160 Japanese troops will begin the two-week Exercise Vigilant Isles.

The increased co-operation on security between the two nations comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes for constitutional change over their military.

When World War Two ended, a new pacifist constitution was announced by Emperor Hirohito. Article 9 of the document said that Japan forever renounces war and forbids the use of force to settle international disputes. 

Video: Sian Grzeszczyk takes a look at Japan's recent military history.

Now in 2018, Mr Abe wants Japan's military to be formally recognised in the constitution - clearing up any question marks over its legitimacy.

For now, Japan's defence is known as 'Self Defence Forces' with nearly 247,150 active personnel - considerably smaller than countries causing Japan the most security concerns like North Korea (1,280,00 active personnel), China (2,035,000) and Russia (900,000). 

In 2017, relations between Japan and North Korea reached an all-time low after one of Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missiles landed in Japanese waters.

Mr Abe described it as a “reckless act” representing an unprecedented serious threat.

Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May laid the groundwork for a 3-year defence cooperation plan which is what’s led to the the UK-Japanese joint exercise. 

Earlier this year, HMS Albion visited Tokyo as one of three British warships dispatched to the Far East as the UK aimed to renew ties with the Asia-Pacific region post-Brexit.

HMS Albion was in Tokyo in August (Picture: Royal Navy).
HMS Albion was in Tokyo in August (Picture: Royal Navy).

As British troops join their Japanese counterparts, it marks a new chapter of defence co-operation between the countries.

The exercise will take place in Fuji - 70 miles from Tokyo, which is "significant for two reasons" according to Mr Madden.

"Firstly, it's a very concrete manifestation of the closer, enhanced security relationship that we have with Japan, following the Prime Minister's visit to Tokyo last year when she and Prime Minister Abe set out a new vision for our relationship," he explained.

"Secondly, I think it's important because it's the first time anyone other than the Americans has been doing land-based exercises with the Japanese on Japanese soil.

"I think for Japan, it's very welcome to have countries like Britain doing more with it because it's a time of uncertainty in the region, so Japan is looking to have closer relationships with those countries that share its values."

Mr Madden added that the new relationship will show a "global Britain" post-Brexit, enabling the UK to  "engage a little bit more with the world beyond Europe".

When asked by Forces News what the future defence relationship between the UK and Japan looks like, Mr Madden said: "I think we're going to continue getting closer to Japan, in terms of exchanging ideas, working together in all sorts of international spheres.

"I expect to see an overall general strengthening of the relationship."

He also said "it was not for us to comment" over Mr Abe's aim to have the Japanese military formally recognised in the constitution. 

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