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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Japan Should Welcome, Even Join, the New Security Framework vs China

U.S. and U.K. will provide Australia with what President Joe Biden refers to as “the most modern capabilities we need to maneuver and defend against rapidly evolving threats.”

Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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HMS Queen Elizabeth and its strike group signal advancing partnerships, as U.K. joins the U.S. and Australia in the AUKUS framework in promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.

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We welcome the strengthening of deterrence against China as it continues to pursue maritime hegemony. 

The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, aiming to promote stability in the Indo-Pacific region, have created a new security framework. The U.S. and the U.K. will provide Australia with advanced technologies under the arrangement, including the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.

The initiative comes as the United States puts a new focus on countering China under its rebalancing strategy following its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Appropriately, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato hailed the trilateral framework as “important for peace and security of the Indo-Pacific.”

Regarding the acronym AUKUS, which is taken from abbreviations of each of the three partners, U.S. President Joe Biden said in comments from the White House on September 15 that “this initiative is about making sure that each of us has a modern capability — the most modern capabilities we need — to maneuver and defend against rapidly evolving threats.”  

A senior Biden administration official was quoted as explaining that the AUKUS partnership framework “is for maintaining the international rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific and for promoting the region’s peace and stability.” It is obvious that Washington has in mind China, it’s “only serious competitor.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking from Australia in the three-way virtual summit meeting, addressed the issue of nuclear powered submarines, saying: “But let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability. And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted, “the submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors, not armed with nuclear weapons.”  

Rather than strategic nuclear-powered submarines loaded with nuclear weapons, or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), Canberra is seeking nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines mounted with conventional weapons capable of long-term dives. This, the parties believe, will work as a powerful deterrent to the Chinese navy, which has been actively aggressive in such areas as the South China Sea and the Pacific. 

AUKUS will also promote cooperation in a number of other key areas, such as artificial intelligence (AI), cyber and quantum technologies, in addition to integration of science and technology, industrial infrastructure and supply chains relating to regional security and national defense.

Washington is hoping that AUKUS will bring closer involvement of the United Kingdom, a major naval power with a strong voice in the international community, in the security of the Indo-Pacific. 

At the same time, the United States is forging ahead with the “Quad” framework involving Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India.

Britain, for its part, is increasing its involvement in the Indo-Pacific, including the dispatch to Asia of the strike group led by its state-of-the-art aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth

The Australian government has been demanding that China carry out an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and criticizing Beijing for its hegemonistic behavior in such areas as the South China Sea. Australia appears to be aiming to stand up to pressures from China, in collaboration with the U.S. and Britain.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato, chief spokesman for the Suga government, remarked that Japan wishes to “continue close cooperation with like-minded nations.” 

Indeed, Japan has shared values and the challenges of deterring China with Britain, the United States, and Australia. Therefore, it may be natural for Japan to join the AUKUS security relationship. Japan should further promote cooperation with the three nations with a view to taking part in the framework in the near future.

(Read the Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun