Rishi Sunak will agree a historic deal on security with Japan amid rising tensions with China.
The Prime Minister will sign the “Hiroshima Accord” with Japan ahead of the G7 meeting of Western leaders, under which the UK will step up defence cooperation to uphold stability in the Indo-Pacific, amid concerns about warmongering from Beijing.
The two countries will also launch a partnership on semiconductors, working together on research and development to help the West keep ahead of the game.
The agreement comes after Liz Truss made a speech in Taiwan to urge Mr Sunak to declare China a threat.
Mr Sunak will travel to Tokyo on Thursday before meeting his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima the same night to sign the accord.
He said: “It is a privilege to be visiting Tokyo and Hiroshima at this historic moment in the United Kingdom’s relationship with Japan.
“Prime Minister Kishida and I are closely aligned on the importance of protecting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and defending our values, including free and fair trade.
“The Hiroshima Accord will see us step up cooperation between our armed forces, grow our economies together and develop our world-leading science and technology expertise. It marks an exciting next phase in the UK and Japan’s flourishing partnership.”
The UK’s relationship with Japan has grown further and faster than with any other international partner, reflecting Japan’s pivotal role in the Indo-Pacific and their centrality to the UK’s security and prosperity.
In the last six months, Britain has completed negotiations to join the CPTPP trade bloc, launched the UK-Japan-Italy Global Combat Air Programme and signed a defence Reciprocal Access Agreement.
The Hiroshima Accord is designed to cement this relationship, with new agreements on defence, trade and investment, science and technology collaboration, and joint work on tackling global issues like climate change.
Arriving in Tokyo on Thursday, the Prime Minister will visit a naval base and confirm new UK-Japan defence cooperation.
This includes doubling UK troop numbers in upcoming joint exercises, committing to deploy the Carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Pacific in 2025 and agreeing a formal Consult Clause, whereby the UK and Japan commit to consult each other on important regional and global security issues and consider measures in response.
Britain is also launching a set of science and technology programmes to support UK-Japan collaboration at every stage of the pipeline, from early career researchers through to bringing new innovations to market.
It includes a new strategic relationship between Imperial College London and the University of Tokyo, built on collaboration with Hitachi Ltd, to develop a UK-Japan Cleantech Innovation Hub and scale up the rapid development of green technologies.
As part of the new accord, the UK and Japan will launch a Semiconductors Partnership, with new commitments to pursue ambitious R&D cooperation and skills exchange, strengthening our domestic sectors and bolstering supply chain resilience in an increasingly competitive market.
Later on Thursday, the Prime Minister will host a reception of key Japanese business leaders in Tokyo to reiterate the importance of our trade and investment relationship. He is expected to confirm billions of pounds of new job-creating investments in the UK.
The fourth UK-Japan joint ‘Vigilant Isles’ military exercises, taking place in Japan later this year, will be the biggest yet with around 170 UK personnel taking part, including from the 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles and 16 Air Assault Brigade.
The UK will also confirm that its Carrier Strike Group will return to the Indo-Pacific in 2025, following its maiden voyage to the region in 2021. The fleet, comprised of an aircraft carrier, her escorts and her aircraft, will work alongside the Japanese Self Defence Forces and other regional partners to help defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
As part of the defence agreements under the Hiroshima Accord, the Prime Minister is expected to agree a new Cyber Partnership with Japan. This will deepen UK-Japan cooperation on cyber and set a high level of ambition for the future relationship, with Fujitsu UK joining the National Cyber Security Centre’s Industry 100, and the UK and Japan piloting a new Japan Cyber Security Fellowship to develop future cyber leaders.
Britain will also unveil a new Renewable Energy Partnership, aimed at accelerating the deployment of clean energy in the UK, Japan and third countries.
Liz Truss’s speech
On Wednesday Ms Truss warned a Cold War with China had already begun, and the West had to choose whether to appease Beijing or prepare for conflict.
“There are those who say they don’t want another Cold War,” she said in Taiwan.
“But this is not a choice we are in a position to make, because China has already embarked on a self-reliance drive, whether we want to decouple from their economy or not.
“China is growing its navy at an alarming rate and is undertaking the biggest military build-up in peacetime history. They have already formed alliances with other nations that want to see the free world in decline.
“They have already made a choice about their strategy. The only choice we have is whether we appease and accommodate – or we take action to prevent conflict.”
She added: “The UK’s integrated review needs to be amended to state clearly that China is a threat.”
Rishi Sunak has however insisted he would maintain Britain’s approach of only having “unofficial” ties to Taiwan, Ms Truss’s demand he adopt a firmer stance on China.
Asked whether his predecessor’s trip had been helpful, Mr Sunak said his government’s policy would not change.
He said: “I can tell you that our approach to Taiwan is longstanding and it hasn’t changed. And again, it’s an approach that is completely aligned in substance and in language with all our allies.”
The prime minister added: “I think that we have a very strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan as our allies do. I think that our position is united and aligned with our allies, and will continue.”
Mr Sunak was speaking to reporters on board his plane to the G7 summit in Hiroshima. He said that the UK had “put China firmly on the agenda” when hosting the summit in 2021 and that it would be a focus of meetings over the coming days as well.