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Is now the time for JAUKUS?

Posted By on May 20, 2022 @ 11:10

On Tuesday next week, leaders from Japan, the US, India and Australia will meet in Tokyo for the next Quad leaders’ meeting [1].

Despite a big Quad agenda, the meeting is a good opportunity for the US and Australia (although tomorrow’s election complicates [2] Australia’s attendance) to discreetly sound out the possibilities of Japan joining the AUKUS partnership.

There’s been persistent speculation that Japan will join AUKUS since it was announced in September last year. Japan has made a number of positive statements [3] about the trilateral technology-sharing partnership. In an interview [4] with ASPI in November, Japan’s ambassador to Australia even said: ‘We have been told there are some instances or areas where AUKUS members may need Japanese cooperation and participation and we are more than willing to do our contribution.’

It looked like this would happen sooner rather than later, when the AUKUS leaders’ statement [5] in April revealed a new program of trilateral cooperation on hypersonics, counter-hypersonics and electronic warfare capabilities under the partnership.

With Japan’s expertise and capabilities in these areas, it wasn’t surprising when a report appeared in Japanese newspaper the Sankei Shimbun [6] a few days later alleging that AUKUS members had each informally reached out to their Japanese counterparts to sound out opportunities for Japan to join the partnership.

The report was quickly shot down by Tokyo [7] and Washington [8], with the White House declaring the focus was on finalising a trilateral program of work.

That may be so (for now), but it still makes a lot of strategic sense to make JAUKUS happen.

More than any other country, Japan shares common security concerns and assessments with the AUKUS partners about the rapidly deteriorating geostrategic environment. Of more value, rather than just making a general commitment to the rules-based order, Japan is a proactive defender of it. Facing the realities of an increasingly unstable region, Japan is updating its security policy settings at its highest levels. It is working on updating its national security strategy for the first time since 2013 alongside a raft of other defence and security policies [9] that are due for release later this year.

Japan already has bilateral security relationships with each of the three AUKUS members. Earlier this month, Japan and the UK announced they were working towards a reciprocal access agreement [10], while Japan and Australia signed a reciprocal access agreement [11]—historic as the first foreign-force basing agreement Japan had signed since its alliance with the US—back in January. The alliance with the US remains the cornerstone of Japan’s defence and security posture. These arrangements position Japan and AUKUS members on the same page and structural levels, meaning it wouldn’t be a big jump to take the relationship to the JAUKUS level.

Big picture aside, there are other advantages to having Japan formally join AUKUS.

Japan’s expertise and capability in a number of high-tech areas would make it a high-value and substantial contributor to the partnership. While Japan has openly said it will not acquire nuclear submarines (and it’s unlikely the US would share the technology anyway), AUKUS is clearly not just about submarines, and Japan would benefit from enhanced access to broader expertise and technology from Australia, the UK and the US. With Japan in North Asia, facing China on one side and Russia (which it’s still technically at war with [12]) above, a Japan with access to all that AUKUS can offer is in all our interests.

If Japan joined AUKUS, it would also stave off China’s (and others’) ‘Anglosphere’ criticism of the partnership. It might also go some way to reassuring Southeast Asian nations and other countries in the region that are still inclined to look warily at AUKUS. Japan has a well-deserved reputation for being a positive and constructive partner in the region, with a history of engagement, balancing and deterrence in its relationship with China. It would also help counter ongoing Chinese disinformation [13] regarding AUKUS and nuclear proliferation if Japan, the only country to suffer a nuclear attack, finds the claims [14] baseless.

These are just some of the reasons it makes sense for Japan to join the partnership. With Japan more than willing to step up to the plate, as two out of the three AUKUS leaders meet in Tokyo next week for the Quad, let’s hope there’s some momentum on the sidelines to also make JAUKUS happen.



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URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/is-now-the-time-for-jaukus/

URLs in this post:

[1] Quad leaders’ meeting: https://www.kantei.go.jp/quad-leaders-meeting-tokyo2022/index.html

[2] complicates: https://thediplomat.com/2022/05/australias-election-complicates-attendance-at-quad-summit/

[3] positive statements: https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/kaiken/kaiken25e_000038.html

[4] interview: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/japan-more-than-willing-to-help-ensure-aukus-success/

[5] AUKUS leaders’ statement: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/joint-media-statement-aukus-leaders-level-statement

[6] Sankei Shimbun: https://www.sankei.com/article/20220412-73VOZUMHBVKTFFHLLJHSZHUYQU/

[7] Tokyo: https://jp.reuters.com/article/idJPL3N2WB0J7

[8] Washington: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2022/04/13/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-jen-psaki-april-13-2022/

[9] other defence and security policies: https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/japans-ruling-party-proposes-defence-strategy-revisions

[10] reciprocal access agreement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-japan-set-to-rapidly-accelerate-defence-and-security-ties-with-landmark-agreement

[11] reciprocal access agreement: https://www.mofa.go.jp/a_o/ocn/au/page4e_001195.html

[12] still technically at war with: https://time.com/6160029/japan-russia-wwii-ukraine/

[13] ongoing Chinese disinformation: https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/202203/t20220315_10651967.html

[14] claims: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-11/diplomatic-resources-to-fight-chinese-and-russian-disinformation/100821770

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