Economic Statecraft
Japan Becomes the Epicentre of a New Military Alliance

In November 2021, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that the country should strengthen cooperation with AUKUS members, especially in the field of cyber security and artificial intelligence. In April 2022, the White House denied media reports that Japan had been invited to join and transform the agreement into a JAUKUS format. However, there is no smoke without fire — in November 2022, Western analysts again started talking seriously about the prospects for Tokyo to enter the treaty, writes Valdai Club expert Andrey Gubin.

In September 2021, Australia, the UK and the US signed an Indo-Pacific Security Cooperation agreement, also known as the AUKUS agreement. The document provides “to maintain and expand our edge in military capabilities and critical technologies, such as cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and undersea domains.” The main point was the acquisition by Canberra of several multi-purpose nuclear submarines. Questions about where the submarines will be built, what and in what quantity, who will provide the reactors are planned to be resolved by mid-2023. It is likely that the first nuclear submarine will appear in the Australian Navy only by 2040.

Due to Washington’s great desire to turn the agreement into something useful for its own interests, there are more proposals to transform AUKUS into a regional weapons research and technology partnership. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already identified a similar trend as an attempt to promote NATO interests in the Indo-Pacific, using Tokyo for their own purposes.

In November 2021, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that the country should strengthen cooperation with AUKUS members, especially in the field of cyber security and artificial intelligence. In April 2022, the White House denied media reports that Japan had been invited to join and transform the agreement into a JAUKUS format. However, there is no smoke without fire — in November 2022, Western analysts again started talking seriously about the prospects for Tokyo to enter the treaty. However, the addition of just one letter in practice can significantly affect the structure of East Asian regional security.

Armed pacifism

In August 2022, the Japanese government announced an unprecedented increase in defence spending. The military budget for 2023 will exceed 5.5 trillion yen (40 billion dollars), but most likely this figure is not final and will approach 6.5 trillion yen (46.3 billion dollars). It provides for the development and acquisition of types of weapons previously uncharacteristic for the Self-Defense Forces, especially long-range cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles.

Also Tokyo’s national security interests coincide with the priorities of US, UK and Australian policy to build a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Attention is drawn to the offensive nature of the foreign policy line of Tokyo, which has begun to actively position itself as a defender of “liberal values” in Asia.

In particular, since mid-2021, Japanese politicians have openly advocated in favour of protecting Taiwan from the “aggression from the mainland” and the need to develop cooperation with the island on security issues. At the same time, some analysts have warned the country’s leadership directly about the danger of such actions and dubious support among the population.

It is also important that Japan joined Western sanctions against Russia after the start of the special military operation, designating itself as part of the collective West and becoming an “unfriendly country” for Moscow. The balanced position of India raised the question of the future of the Quadripartite Dialogue on Security in the Indo-Pacific (QUAD), because the “architects” of the Indo-Pacific urgently needed a new format of multilateral security cooperation with the prospect of reforming it into a military alliance.

Japan also sees a clear threat from the DPRK, which this year set records for launching all kinds of missiles from all kinds of places, despite protests and alarms from Tokyo. China and the Russian Federation do not intend to stop Pyongyang in the near future. Understanding the motives of their North Korean comrades, they regularly block American proposals for a UN Security Council resolution. In this regard, Japan is looking for new (old) opportunities to strengthen its own security, although neither Moscow, nor Beijing, nor Pyongyang have designated Tokyo as a potential adversary in their doctrinal documents.

In April 2022, the US announced the expansion of the AUKUS agenda, prioritising the joint development of hypersonic missiles, as well as means to counter such weapons, both kinetic and electronic. This format makes it possible to involve Japan in cooperation, which has a practical interest in such research and work.

Conflict and Leadership
Unpacking the AUKUS Trilateral Security Partnership: Politics, Proliferation and Propulsion
Andrew Futter
The AUKUS agreement, and particularly the nuclear-submarines component, appear to be part of a broader plan to bolster US capacity in the Asia-Pacific, reassure regional allies of the US commitment to defence of the region, and perhaps above all, to counter the perception of a “rising” and more assertive China. At the same time, it will look to many like US double standards and even reflective of a neo-colonial attitude to nuclear proliferation where some countries are deemed “responsible” nuclear operators and others are not, writes Valdai Club expert Andrew Futter.
Expert Opinions

Are the people silent?

In recent years, Japan has been developing cooperation on military issues with India, the countries of Southeast Asia and NATO. An important form of cooperation is the signing of agreements on logistical support for military needs with India and Australia, as well as the Malabar joint naval exercises, where the US Navy also participates. In July 2022, the development of a new next generation fighter was announced jointly with Britain and Italy, which may be the first experience with international military cooperation of its kind for Japan.

In October 2022, Australian and Japanese Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese and Fumio Kishida signed an updated Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. In comparison with the original 2007 version, the document has acquired the clear outlines of a military alliance. The latest version provides for joint military exercises of various kinds, participation in multilateral manoeuvres with partners, the mutual use of military infrastructure facilities, protection of property, exchange of experience, and training of military and civilian personnel. The document does not contain mutual obligations, but mentions the need for consultations in case of a danger to sovereignty in the interests of ensuring regional security in order to develop possible response measures. The Self-Defense Forces already have the right to escort and protect the military personnel of other countries that ensures the security of Japan, and in the event of a threat to use force in self-defence. In other words, the Japanese military can now provide assistance to the Australian Armed Forces and guarantee the safety of facilities and units even in peacetime.

Drawing Tokyo into a multilateral military alliance, even if not formalised, will allow the United States to more fully use the potential of the SDF within the Indo-Pacific.

Australia’s military capabilities are still limited, and the UK is just about to deploy a carrier strike group in the region. The Japanese Navy (Maritime Self-Defense Force) is also capable of operating in the western Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea, performing tasks as part of a strategy to deny access to certain areas and limit the manoeuvre of the forces of a potential enemy. It is worth noting the existing potential of Japanese ships in the field of missile defence, and in the future, the navy will be able to strike ground targets with ship-borne missile weapons, as well as with guided aviation ammunition from F-35 carrier-based aircraft. In addition, Japan intends to deploy a constellation of at least 50 satellites that can also be used to warn of a missile attack.

As part of JAUKUS, the industrial and scientific potential of Japan will most likely be used, for example, to create modern autonomous combat vehicles and increase the capabilities of all members of a possible alliance in cyberspace.

So far, neither side has officially announced Japan’s accession to AUKUS. Words of approval are still being heard at the expert level, and also from some politicians, as well as in personal opinions. At the same time, due to the peculiarities of Japan’s political system, decisions of this kind will largely depend on public opinion. Perhaps increased cooperation on cybersecurity issues will find popular support, but militarisation with a clear anti-Chinese (and anti-Russian) bias is worrisome to voters. NATO’s eastward expansion has not only failed to strengthen regional security, but is gradually bringing Europe closer to disaster. Most likely, Tokyo understands direct analogies and knows how to draw conclusions.

Of course, for Washington and London, the advantages of involving the Japanese outweigh all the disadvantages, since it is an Anglo-Saxon tradition to shift responsibility and effort, and preferably also costs, to allies. However, the image of Washington as a guarantor of security after the fiasco in Afghanistan was seriously damaged. This is probably why Canberra is in no hurry to oppose itself to China. For example, PM Albanese did not support Taiwan’s aspirations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Perhaps Tokyo should also think about the fact that close neighbours are better than distant “relatives” (远亲不如近邻).

Economic Statecraft
Understanding the ‘Forever’ Alliance: What AUKUS Means for Australia and the World
Salvatore Babones
Australia’s accession to AUKUS will not result in any net gain to the alliance’s nuclear submarine numbers for decades to come. But it will give the alliance a meaningful, capable base at the fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region, in a politically-stable country that is unlikely ever to withdraw from the partnership, writes Salvatore Babones, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney.
Expert Opinions
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.