Booming Indo-Pacific Security Cooperation Efforts – The Diplomat

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The Quad partners are taking security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific increasingly seriously. They make bilateral and other agreements among themselves, but also bring in other countries from Europe, such as France and the UK, that have an interest in the region. This is not intended to replace the quad itself, but to complement it.

Still, there is a risk that the Quad as a group could be left behind as these other arrangements become more widespread and deepened in their focus on security cooperation.

Recently, Japan and the United Kingdom signed a defense agreement that would facilitate the deployment of troops in each other’s countries. A statement by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the signing of the Japan-UK Reciprocal Access Agreement said the agreement “is intended to simplify procedures in conducting cooperative activities such as port calls of ships and joint exercises between the two countries and further promote bilateral security and defense cooperation.” A UK government press release said the agreement “will also strengthen Britain’s commitment to security in the Indo-Pacific by enabling both forces to plan and conduct larger, more complex military exercises and operations.”

The Japanese statement referred to the current international security context, in which the international order is also being challenged by the Russian aggression against Ukraine [Chinese] “attempts to unilaterally change the status quo with force in the East and South China Seas.” Amid these developments, the foreign ministry said, Japan and the United Kingdom are stepping up their security and defense cooperation to “new heights” with the broader goal of a ” free and open Indo-Pacific”.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak observed that in an “increasingly competitive world, it is more important than ever that democratic societies continue to stand shoulder to shoulder as we tackle the unprecedented global challenges of our time”.

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As highlighted in the press release, the mutual agreement comes on the back of an agreement signed in December between Japan, Italy and the UK “to develop the next generation of air combat aircraft under the new Global Combat Air Program”. Japan and the UK have also launched a new bilateral digital partnership to expand their bilateral cooperation on cyber resilience, online security and semiconductors.

Japan has been particularly active in strengthening its security given the threat it faces from China. China clearly got the message. Responding to a question about the Japan-British defense agreement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the region is “an anchor for peace and development, not a battleground for geopolitical competition” and “China is a cooperative partner for all countries and poses no challenge to anyone.” The spokesman added that defense arrangements “should not target imaginary enemies, much less replicate the outdated mindset of bloc confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The 2+2 meeting between Japan and the US earlier this week was another important indicator of Japan’s changing approach to security. Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu were in Washington for Security Advisory Committee talks with their counterparts, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Both sides reiterated the importance of their relationship in the context of a confident China, a Russian invasion of another UN member country, and North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons along with delivery systems.

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With deterrence at its core, the joint statement at the end of the 2+2 meeting said the US and Japan had agreed to “advance bilateral modernization initiatives to build a more effective, integrated and agile alliance that strengthens deterrence and addresses evolving regional and global security challenges.” A focus has also been on expanding their capabilities in a number of mission areas, including integrated air and missile defense, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, amphibious and airborne operations, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition (ISRT ), logistics and mobility. In addition, Japan and the United States will strengthen cooperation for the “effective use of Japan’s defense capabilities in close coordination with the United States.”

Emerging and critical technologies, including space, cyber and information security, were mentioned in the statement, aiming to “strengthen mission assurance, interoperability and operational collaboration, including through enhanced space awareness collaboration.” The four ministers also reiterated that “the Alliance stands firm in the face of these challenges and steadfastly supports shared values ​​and norms that underpin the international rules-based order. They renewed their commitment to violently oppose any unilateral change in the status quo, regardless of the location of the world.”

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio also visited Washington on January 13 for a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Japan and Australia, also Quad members, signed an agreement on Jan. 6, 2022, similar to that signed with Britain that would facilitate “mutual access and cooperation” between the two countries’ militaries. At the signing of the agreement, then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly said: “Japan is our closest partner in Asia, as demonstrated by our distinctive strategic partnership, Australia’s only such partnership – an equal partnership of mutual trust between two great democracies committed to the Committed to rule law, human rights, free trade and a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

In addition, Japan and Australia have signed a new bilateral security agreement covering military, intelligence, space and cybersecurity cooperation. The new agreement is an updated version of the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, signed in 2007 when China posed less of a threat.

The AUKUS treaty between Australia, Britain and the US is another major new security agreement in the Indo-Pacific involving two of the Quad partners. AUKUS was of course much more important than the other agreements because it relates to Australia’s plans to acquire nuclear submarines.

Meanwhile, India is also strengthening its defense and security agreements with other countries. For example, it has signed military logistics and reciprocity agreements with a number of countries, including Australia, Japan, the United States – the Quad countries – as well as France, Singapore and South Korea. However, these do not seem to represent such a profound security cooperation as the others mentioned.

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Although India has sought to deepen its security cooperation with its partners, New Delhi may find that the Quad and its other bilateral security deals are quickly being surpassed by these new deals emerging in the Indo-Pacific.