Interview: UK-Japan seek closer defense ties in response to Trump, Brexit

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-16 13:05:36|Editor: Yang Yi
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LONDON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Japan has sought closer ties with Britain out of fear that the U.S. Trump administration will give the Asia-Pacific region a lower priority, a leading British academic said Friday.

Professor Ian Neary, a Japan expert at Oxford University, told Xinhua that the three-year defense cooperation plan signed by Britain and Japan Thursday serves the interests of both sides.

"There is a feeling in Japan that the present U.S. administration, and possibly future ones, do not and will not give the Asia Pacific region priority. Meanwhile the UK is reassessing its options as it goes through the process of leaving the European Union (EU). Thus this agreement serves the interests of both sides," said the expert.

Britain's newly appointed Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said here Thursday that the year 2018 will see British and Japanese military forces work even more closely together.

Williamson and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met their Japanese counterparts at Greenwich Naval College to strengthen security and defense cooperation between the two countries.

At the meeting, Williamson described Japan as one of Britain's closest allies in the Asia Pacific region, adding that as tension grows on the Korean Peninsula, that relationship is vitally important.

Neary said the agreement is the logical consequence of a process that started last year between Japan and Britain. What is now being seen is more specific things added to the outline the two sides reached in 2016.

"The agreement is significant in that Britain and Japan are seeing themselves as allies, or semi-allies... In the context of collective defense, Japan may now come to the assistance of its ally, which is something that previously would not have been permitted," said the Oxford professor.

As a signal of the closer ties, Britain will next year send 45 army personnel to train with Japanese soldiers, the first time British troops will exercise on Japanese soil.

With plans already agreed on to send two Royal Navy warships to visit Japan in 2018 and the Royal Air Force working with the Japanese Self-Defense Air Force, British military forces will be at the forefront of the close relationship between Britain and its one-time adversary Japan.

"It is responding to the changing circumstances," said Neary, "Japan is responding to that by having closer multi-lateral ties with Australia and India, and now with France and Britain."