UK aircraft carrier headed for the Indo-Pacific in fresh impetus

UK aircraft carrier headed for the Indo-Pacific in fresh impetus

Britain’s new ministerial agreements with Japan bring further good news for closer UK-India collaboration in the region.

The UK government has announced plans for the deployment of a new Carrier Strike Group led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year as part of its “renewed focus” on the Indo-Pacific region, following talks with Japan.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab discussed the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth during the “2+2” virtual meeting with their respective Japanese counterparts, Ministers Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi, this week.

It marks the UK’s latest post-Brexit move targeted at the Indo-Pacific region, following its formal application recently to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free trade group, the 2021 Commission for which is being chaired by Japan.

Shared priorities

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab discussed the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth during the “2+2” virtual meeting with their respective Japanese counterparts.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab discussed the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth during the “2+2” virtual meeting with their respective Japanese counterparts.Courtesy: Getty Images

Following the latest round of talks, Dominic Raab said: “Japan is a key security partner for the UK, and a close, enduring friend. This year will see our two nations working even more closely together with the UK’s Presidency of the G7 and hosting of the UN Climate Conference.

“The UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt, including the visit of HMS Queen Elizabeth to the region, demonstrates our shared priorities and common strategic interests from maritime security to climate change and free trade.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said that the Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) will herald a new era for UK-Japan defence and security cooperation, providing opportunities for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and their respective Japanese counterparts to operate together and support opportunities for future collaboration, including on the F35 and Amphibious programmes.

New heights

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Japan and the UK have forged a close defence and security partnership that is being elevated to new heights this year when the UK Carrier Strike Group visits the Indo-Pacific.

“The most significant Royal Navy deployment in a generation demonstrates the UK’s commitment to working with our partners in the region to uphold the rules based international system and promote our shared security and prosperity.”

The FCDO said a recent Maritime Security Arrangement agreed between the Royal Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Forces (JMSDF) is one example of how the two countries’ Armed Forces are deepening their relationship. The arrangement, signed by JMSDF and the First Sea Lord Tony Radakin – head of the Royal Navy – will see the two countries share maritime domain awareness between each other, helping to create a safe environment for international shipping transiting between the Indo-Pacific and Europe.

Training exercises

In this spirit, the ministers committed to further cooperation on monitoring illicit ship-to-ship transfers by North Korea.

In recent years, the FCDO noted that a growing defence partnership between the UK and Japan has seen the British Army become the only Army other than the US to train with Japanese forces on Japanese soil. The Vigilant Isles training exercise series establishes annual cooperation on training exercises between the British Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defence Forces (JGSDF).

The latest development bodes well for the promised enhanced partnership leading to a free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and India, as defence and security will form a key ingredient of any new post-Brexit alliance between the two countries. A visit to India this week by UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss for talks with her Indian counterpart, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, is expected to formalise the roadmap for such an enhanced partnership for the Indo-Pacific region – ready to be signed off by Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he visits India ahead of the G7 Summit in June.

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