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New Think Tank Explores Challenges as ‘Global Britain’ Returns to Indo-Pacific

The Council on Geostrategy says the United Kingdom, weakened after the Cold War, needs to tackle global issues at a critical time when its diplomacy is being tested after leaving the European Union.

Rieko Hayakawa, Ph.D

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HMS Queen Elizabeth will be sent to the Indo-Pacific and will visit Japan.

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After Brexit, Britain has a new think tank, the Council on Geostrategy, based at 14 Old Queen Street, a few minutes’ walk from Westminster Palace. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of its co-founders, James Rogers. I was looking for conservative think tanks around the world when I came across his work on Global Britain at the Henry Jackson Society.

Britain is coming back to the Indo-Pacific, where it was once an imperial power. The Pacific island countries, which now have been heavily affected by the negative influence of China, are not actually paradise but are riddled with problems, and I personally welcome Britain’s return. Already, embassies that were closed a few decades ago in Vanuatu, Tonga, and Samoa have been reopened.

Test of British Diplomacy

Why a new think tank now? Mr Rogers replied that the U.K., weakened after the Cold War, needed to tackle global issues at a critical time when British diplomacy was being tested after leaving the European Union. To overcome the limitations of the traditional prestigious think tanks, he and his co-founder felt that a new organization with a commitment to Britain and a principle of intellectual independence, uninfluenced by external factors, was needed.

The core members of the Council on Geostrategy are young. I asked him about the average age, and he said it is somewhere in the 30s. Rogers himself is only 39, but has already had an illustrious career. He specializes in geopolitics and British strategic policy, and has worked for the Henry Jackson Society, the Baltic Defence College, and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. He has been invited to give oral evidence to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs, Defence and International Development committees. Co-founder Viktorija Starych-Samuolienė, a Lithuanian national with a master’s degree in intelligence and international security from King’s College, London, is an internationalist who has worked in the Lithuanian Embassy in Tokyo.

And how will the new organization be funded? “For the time being, it will be funded by the two of us, but we will work to achieve external support,” said Rogers. One of the key principles of the organization is intellectual independence. The research will be carried out without the influence of future funders.

While it is a new and young organization, its advisory board includes a number of leading figures from the field of British security and defense, including Members of Parliament. The Council on Geostrategy will take advice from them and will be supported in all its events and the dissemination of its reports.

Rogers was quick to release A “‘Crowe Memorandum’ for the twenty-first century: Preparing for intensified geopolitical competition.” It was written with an eye to China’s expansion and includes a foreword by Tom Tugendhat, MP. This endorsement of a prominent Member of Parliament and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee is significant.

What About Japan-U.K. Relations?

The main focus of our interview was on Global Britain. 

The term “Global Britain” was discussed before Brexit. At first it was sometimes used to mean economic development. Since Brexit, however, it has taken on a broader meaning, with military spending on the rise and the deployment of the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in the Indo-Pacific, and the U.K. government’s new Integrated Strategic Review, announced on March 16, which focuses on scientific research in the military sector.

In two months’ time, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail in the South China Sea in a demonstration of open seas freedom in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It was the U.K. that controlled the Indo-Pacific, and in particular the Indian Ocean, prior to 1960. There are still 1.5 million British nationals living in the region today. 

As well as the situation in Hong Kong, Britain’s foothold is firmly established in the Indo-Pacific. The vast Pacific Ocean is home to the British territory of Pitcairn, with a population of 50, and the twice-monthly delivery of supplies is an important duty of the British Government. Singapore, Nepal, and Brunei house logistics and military facilities, and Brunei is home to the British Army’s Jungle Combat Training School. In the Indian Ocean, there is the British island of Diego Garcia, where the U.K.-U.S. military base is a key part of the United States’ military strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.

Finally, I asked about U.K.-Japan relations. Both countries are island nations with a long history of traditional authority. This implies national stability. In the last few years, treaties have been signed, mainly on economic relations. The British people’s memories of the Second World War are fading, and we can look forward to cooperation in many areas. The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to visit Japan soon.

The British may not remember the Anglo-Japan Alliance that led to Japan’s entry into the First World War. But didn’t that war allow Japan to suppress its vast Indo-Pacific maritime interests, and wasn’t this a fuse, one of many, that led to the Second World War? 

I will be keeping an eye on this young, new British think tank and look forward to continuing the conversation.

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Author: Rieko Hayakawa, PhD

Find other articles on JAPAN Forward authored by Rieko Hayakawa, here.

Rieko Hayakawa, PhD, is a Japanese scholar with an expertise in Pacific security, ICT4Development and ocean law. She is also involved in community activities on Japan-ASEAN youth under the Prime Minister's Office. She launched the upgrade for USPNet as a Japan/Australia/NZ ODA project, as well as the maritime security project for the western Pacific and many other projects. In 2017, she proposed the Indo-Pacific strategy with maritime security to the administration of PM Abe. She has MAs in education, international relations and a PhD in ICT4D (Otago University, NZ). Currently she is working on a second PhD in international ocean law at Doshisha University (Kyoto).