Japan-UK Ties and the Quiet Revolution in Japanese Foreign Policy


StratfordThe Hub, February 7, 2015

On 21 January 2015, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Gen Nakatani met with their UK counterparts, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michal Fallon in London at what was the first UK-Japan Foreign and Defence Ministerial. The meeting – known as a 2+2 – was remarkable for two reasons. The first was Tokyo’s commitment to an ambitious program of policy cooperation with London. The second was the realization in Whitehall that Japan’s approach towards security has fundamentally changed. While the Western press and policy community have written much on Japan’s changing security stance, and even more about the man behind those changes –Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – there has been less consideration of the implications for British and European security. Overall, the January meeting raised important questions about the nature of Japan’s new security posture. As Japan pivots away from the ‘neo-mercantilist’ policies it pursued during the Cold War, it is increasingly embracing the principles of liberal internationalism in its foreign policy. This makes Japan a highly appealing security partner for Britain and Europe.

A quiet revolution

Until recently, Japan was seen as a ‘pacifist’ country: its leadership disdained geopolitics and seemingly had few ambitions to wield hard power or enter into security relationships beyond its primary relationship with the United States. In a strategy that became known as the Yoshida Doctrine, the country focused on being a ‘neo-mercantilist’ power that remained uninvolved in Cold War flashpoints. Over time, however, this policy stance became a victim of its own success. Though Washington was bound to defend Japan, it received little by way of burden-sharing or regional security cooperation in return. Tensions grew during the 1980’s when many in the West – such as Paul Kennedy and Ezra Vogel – predicted that Japan would overtake the US as the world’s largest economy. Washington believed that Japan was free-riding on US defence spending and shirking its commitments to the alliance.

Were Prime Minister Yoshida alive today, he would barely recognize Japan’s growing global security posture. While Japanese security cooperation with the UK remains less extensive than with other US allies, such as Australia and South Korea, the January meeting was nevertheless impressive in scope. For one, it resulted in aJoint Statementand Annex whereby the two countries pledged to continue cooperating on issues ranging from disarmament and non-proliferation to maritime security and anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. They also acknowledged growing bilateral cooperation in the space and cyber realms, and looked forward to signing an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). This would allow for military-to-military servicing and repair, and would provide the foundation for joint military operations. In addition, the UK acknowledged and supported Japan’s growing cooperation with NATO and the EU, noting that JSDF vessels have been participating in Operation Ocean Shield alongside the EU Naval Force. The core of the meeting, however, was the launch of a number of joint-defence equipment and technology projects, including an air-to-air missile and chemical protective gear, and discussion of the possibility of exporting Japan’s P-1 maritime patrol aircraft to the UK.

Seen from Europe, Japan’s behavior might be explained as realpolitik. After all, Japan has had a front row seat as China has re-emerged as a great power and rapidly built a modern and highly capable military. While China’s economy experienced double-digit growth for more than a decade, Japan’s once-mighty economy stagnated. In 2010, China’s economy surpassed Japan’s in aggregate terms. Certainly, some would argue that Japan’s outreach is merely a way of enticing Europe to become more involved in East Asia. There is some truth to this. Japanese political elites and foreign policy bureaucrats have watched Chinese assertiveness on its periphery with mounting concern over the past decade. Indeed, one Japanese official called the 2010 clash over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands ‘a wake-up call’. Continued North Korean belligerence and its acquisition of nuclear weapons have also sharpened Japan’s concerns about regional security.

But Japan’s outreach to other regions is about more than narrow self-interest. European policy-makers should be aware that the quiet revolution in Japanese foreign policy has internal drivers as well. Japan is in the midst of a serious identity shift, comparable to that which followed the Meiji restoration or the growth of militarism in the 1930s. In the process, it has come to realize that distant regional and global issues directly affect Japan, and that it can no longer expect the West –namely Washington – to ensure its security while it focuses on amassing economic power. Despite criticism of his historical revisionism, Prime Minister Abe seems determined to retain the moral aspect of Japan’s pacifist identity. In Japanese, his foreign policy is referred to as sekkyokuteki heiwashugi(積極的平和主義), which literally means ‘active pacifism.’ In English, this becomes ‘active contributor to peace.’

From neo-mercantilism to liberal internationalism

Abe’s foreign policy outlook, while admittedly fed by Japanese conservatism and nationalism, mixes Japan’s pacifist identity with a strong strand of liberal multilateralism. Nobukatsu Kanehara, one of Abe’s closest foreign policy advisors and a current Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, is the clearest of these voices. He and other members of Abe’s inner circle – such as Shotaro Yachi (Chairman of the NSC) and Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobushige Takamizawa – have been the most active in promoting this new outlook. As they see it, Japan’s challenge is not to oppose or contain China as a rising power – as many in Beijing believe – but to guide China through its ‘bullish’ phase and teach it how to become a responsible, rule-abiding power. Time and time again, Abe and his team have based their foreign policy outlook on liberal democratic values. Odd though it may sound, this marks a clear break from the past: neo-mercantile Japan positively avoided value- based policies during the Cold War, with postwar Prime Minister and Yoshida-Doctrine-adherent Miyazawa Kiichi going so far as to say that Japan’s foreign policy was, in fact, “a pretense of a foreign policy” and that “the only value judgments we can make are determining what is in Japan’s interest.”

This shift is one that European policy-makers would do well to heed. Though it hardly guarantees that Japanese forces will be joining their British counterparts in future military engagements, it does mean that Japan will no longer watch from the sidelines. Tokyo has become an active defender – with hard power, if necessary – of the liberal international order. In practice, European and Japanese security communities are on the verge of a significant increase in security cooperation on issues ranging from ISIS, to Russian revanchism in the Crimea, to evolving space and cyber security challenges. Even with a defence spending cap far below European states (hovering just above 1%), Japan maintains one of the largest and most modern military forces in the world and has much to offer in terms of defence technology. Furthermore, it is likely that its defence spending will rise in the years to come.

Japan’s quest for security over the past two decades has led it to abandon the narrow mercantilism it once trumpeted. Situated in a dynamic region with not one but two rising powers – China and India – Tokyo has come to realize that it can no longer passively accept regional security guarantees from others. In coming to this realization, it has developed active and willing partnerships with Canberra and Delhi, among others. Moreover, Japan has begun to ask a question that it has avoided for nearly six decades, i.e., what is Japan’s moral role as an international actor? Though far from answered, the fact that an answer is now being attempted should be welcome news for Europe. While Japan’s militarism is still remembered by many in Asia, it has unquestionably become a positive contributor to international stability. With its heavy lift capabilities, its large naval force, and growing cyber capacities, Japan has become an increasingly useful partner for the UK, for NATO, and for other EU states. In a world beset by challenges – including economic ones – Japan now offers a capable and welcome hand.

Scottish independence would have a negative impact on security


British Politics and Policy at the LSE, 17 September, 2014

For most of the past few weeks, debates about Scottish independence have focused on the financial impact of separation, dominated in turn by the currency debate. Indeed, what independence will mean for defence and security have been obscured by this debate. Unfortunately, as with currency and EU membership, the SNP seems to have a penchant for having its cake and eating it. The party has laid out defence priorities without due consideration for cost, nor has it considered the degrading of its own (and UK) capabilities by doing so. Its impact can be analyzed at two different levels: firstit can be examined at the transatlantic level, in the realm of intelligence and defence; secondat the UK level, and how it will affect the defence of the British isles.

The Scottish White Paper, released by the SNP, identifies five defence priorities for an independent Scotland:

  • Maintaining the commitment to a budget for defence and security in an independent Scotland of £2.5 billion
  • Securing the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland.
  • Building a focus on maritime capabilities, such as air and sea-based patrol, and specialist forces able to operate around Scotland’s coasts. These assets will initially be drawn from the current Royal Navy.
  • Progressively building to a total of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel over the 10 years following independence.
  • Reconfiguring the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s needs, including the transition of Faslane to a conventional naval base and joint headquarters of Scottish defence forces. This approach would appear to be focused on maritime defence.

In addition, the Paper also states that Scotland would establish a Scottish intelligence agency (SIA), that would combine the work of the three agencies that currently do such work in the UK, MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. The White Paper also establishes that Scotland would seek to remain inside NATO, playing a more ‘Nordic’ role in defending the Alliance’s northern maritime border.

Scottish independence would affect transatlantic security at two levels: at the five eyes, intelligence-sharing level, and at the NATO level. In terms of the five eyes, an intelligence-sharing network dating to World War 2, which counts the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as members, it’s likely that Scotland would be pushed outside the tent of this force-multiplying alliance. Certainly, the other five agencies would seek to continue a relationship with the new SIA, due to their areas of common concern such maritime security and terrorism. They might even lend a hand to ‘capacity-building’, helping the new agency get on its feet. But in terms of sharing wider global intelligence, there would be little incentive to share too much with an untested and potentially leaky new agency.

Furthermore, though the new SIA could potentially professionalise quickly with a cadre of Scottish employees from UK agencies, it would have to make do with fewer resources – the White Paper claims a minuscule £2.5 billion per annum without reference to start-up costs, no small matter for developing costly cyber defence capabilities. In terms of intelligence-sharing, it would be a question of what Scotland brought to the table to justify it. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has argued that this would be a two-way vulnerability, as Scotland would be a soft target for foreign intelligence services, impacting the UK as a whole.

Another area of concern involves the SNP’s goal of remaining inside NATO while at the same time reducing NATO’s nuclear capabilities in the form of a Trident base at Faslane. This is one of the most incredible cases of cake/eating put forward by Salmond. By removing one of only two independent nuclear capabilities in Europe, the SNP will be hurting its own case for NATO membership – indeed, this was discussed at a private meeting on July 6th in the Brussels NATO HQ between Scottish civil servants and senior NATO leadership. At a time of increased insecurity between the West and Russia, chaos in the Middle East, and a potentially ‘revisionist‘ China, the West as a whole will be made considerably weaker. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, himself a Scot and former Secretary General of NATO, has stated that “the global balance will be substantially upset should one of the West’s key unions and its second-biggest defense power, split up.”

Along with defence capacity, defence industry in both Scotland and the UK will suffer as British companies like Rolls Royce, Thales, and BAE Systems move south of the border. Maintaining their classified building programs in a foreign country would be near impossible without strong intelligence guarantees, something a nascent SIA would be hard-pressed to provide for at least a decade. With such a move, British ship-building would be seriously undermined, possibly forcing London to buy off-the-shelf platforms from NATO providers.

All in all, Scottish independence would not destroy the West or NATO, nor would it lead to irreparable harm to the UK, but it would have negative consequences for UK standing and capabilities, for NATO nuclear deterrence and for the global and European balance of power. For a Scottish nationalist, this may seem a reasonable price to pay, but not all will agree. Their behaviour – though democratic and part of a positive search for identity – will have repercussions, and they should acknowledge them and seek to minimise them. The damage might be relatively short-lived – say a only decade long – if Scottish agencies quickly came up to scratch, the new country spent the required amount on defence (2 per cent of GDP for NATO membership), and if it offered some sort of compromise on the nuclear issue. However, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ before this issue is resolved. We will become extremely familiar with these ‘ifs’ should the vote go against the union on September 18th.

NATO and the ‘Pivot’ after Wales


David Cameron hosts the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales.International Relations and Security Network, 12 September, 2014


Now that the NATO Summit in Wales is over, analysts are working to understand its implications for the strategic landscape around Europe. One issue that lay behind many of the discussions was the impact of US global strategy on the force-posture of US military assets in and around Europe. Although Hillary Clinton famously quipped that the United States “can walk and chew gum at the same time”, European allies still wonder how the US ‘pivot to Asia’ will affect its ability to defend the European continent and manage instability in the Middle East.

Overall, the Summit was a success: 28 world leaders came together as a symbol of transatlantic solidarity and moved past much of the awkwardness that had characterized US-German and US-EU ties over the past year. Vladimir Putin’s revanchist policies had reminded them of the purpose of the alliance, as had the growing instability on Europe’s southern border. On the whole, there were no significant differences of principle among member-states, and the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, the UK, and others committed – on paper, at least – to keep Europe “ whole, free, and at peace.”

Some have called the crisis over Ukraine a ‘Munich moment’, referring to the Munich Conference of 1938, when Germany won control of Sudetenland, a Czechoslovakian territory. However, the comparison is a favorable one for this generation. Rather than accepting the dismemberment of Ukraine, NATO member-states pledged support to Kiev in the form of a planned military exercise in Western Ukraine to show the alliance’s commitment. Furthermore, NATO members agreed to invest in reinvigorating the Alliance’s capabilities in three ways: 1) through the development of a new 4,000-strong deployment force, 2) through increased defense spending, and 3) through strategy readjustments to cyber warfare and ‘ambiguous warfare’.

Losing focus?

At a joint NATO-Cardiff University Conference held prior to the official summit, policy-makers and academics struggled to understand how the pivot would affect America’s ability to defend Europe. More than once, the US commitment to allocate more military resources to the Asia-Pacific was questioned. Some even wondered if the pivot was still in place, given the amount of traction that the Ukraine crisis and rise of ISIL were getting in Washington. This was despite US efforts to allay such fears at a press conference held on the 14th of August, where Admiral John Kirby stated that, despite instability on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks, the US remained very committed to the pivot, as illustrated by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent trip to Asia (his sixth as Secretary).

At the August 14th press conference, Admiral Kirby pointed out that five out of seven US treaty allies were located in the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to 350,000 troops and 200 ships. He might also have pointed out that the region is home to some of the world’s largest militaries and now outspends Europe collectively on defense. In addition, as powers like China and India rise, fissures and tensions along their peripheries have begun to threaten the stability of a region that already dominates global trade and is predicted to represent 51% of global GDP by 2050. If the US continues to turn towards the Asia-Pacific, it is out of long-term strategic necessity. Its European allies must recognize this.

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NATO Wales and the Future of Western Grand Strategy

Mistral Projection and Command Vessel
Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

International Relations Security Network, 7 August, 2014

By John Hemmings for ISN

By all accounts, the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales is likely to be one of the most important since the end of the Cold War. Originally cast as a post-Afghanistan ‘lessons-learned’ and maritime security summit, events in Ukraine and Crimea have dramatically shifted the agenda since February and highlighted the need to redevelop NATO’s core mission of collective defense and deterrence. The sudden massing of Russian armor and more than 150,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border in February at the height of the crisis, reminded Western leaders – particularly those in Poland and the Baltic states – of their vulnerability to old-fashioned conventional forces. However, it has already become clear that these threat-perceptions of Russia are not held equally by all 28 member states in the Alliance, as Germany and Italy balance their security concerns with dependence on Moscow’s energy imports.

These differences may emerge as a serious problem during the summit, stymying a collective path forward. Worse still, European policy elites continue to worry about shifts in US global strategy, particularly the US Pivot strategy and how the shift of US attention away from the European theatre to the Asian one will affect force posture in-region. These fears are likely to run into US frustration over NATO members’ under-spending, a common feature of every NATO summit since the 1990s, and one that will have real – rather than symbolic – meaning this year. Of course, despite all of these challenges, NATO remains the most powerful global defensive alliance, in terms of its combined GDP, military spending, and military technology. As with all collective efforts, its real weaknesses lie in coordination. With the US Pivot to Asia likely to become a permanent feature of its global strategy, the NATO Wales Summit must find a strategic posture for the West that accepts and complements that reality.

What does the Pivot mean to Europe?

The US Pivot to Asia is still poorly understood in Europe. Some believe that the policy is merely rhetorical in nature, while others see it as a misjudged containment attempt towards China, one that – as Australian academic Hugh White contends –fans the flames of great power rivalry. Primarily, European elites view the Pivot in terms of its effect on European security.

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Europe and China: A New Tack?

International Relations and Security Network, 26 June, 2014

At a recent state dinner in London for visiting People’s Republic of China (PRC) Premier Li Keqiang,David+Cameron+in+China+2+December+2013 British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made a number of undiplomatic comments, saying that the people of China were “politically shackled” to a communist one-party state guilty of human rights abuses. Unsurprisingly, given this government’s economic drive, Downing Street distanced itself from the statement, with Michael Fallon, the business minister, saying that human rights should not “get in the way” of trade links. Instead, UK Inc. reported that BP and Shell were due to announce multi-billion dollar deals with PRC oil companies. Indeed, investment from the entire visit by the PRC delegation was said to be worth more than 18 billion pounds.  That, it seemed, was that.

 Until recently, the policy approach of many Western nations towards the PRC has been based on a singular assumption. This assumption was that the West would do business with an authoritarian regime because it was thought that engagement would change the nature of that regime. In simple terms, trade would change the PRC from within, by building a middle class. The Clinton White House was the first to translate this assumption into policy – in 1994, Clinton delinked trade from advances in human rights and political reform, and, in addition to giving China most favored nation (MFN) status, signed a trade deal in 1999, which helped China accede to the World Trade Organization. The Americans were not alone. Japan, Taiwan, ROK and many EU states like Germany, the UK, and France encouraged trade ties with the seemingly reform-minded authoritarian regime. Many billions of dollars were injected into the country.

So far, business has been good…

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Beyond the Pacific: A Proposal for US-Japan-UK Trilateral Cooperation

(Introduction to UK-Japan-US Trilateral Proposal)

By John Hemmings


This posting proposes a new strategic trilateral relationship between the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom. These three powers constitute two of the most powerful defense alliances in the international system, and the three share an increasing number of common security concerns. The next three posts are dedicated to some areas where the three might cooperate, namely, cyber, Afghanistan, and biosecurity.


The United States has a long history of developing and maintaining a network of alliances around the globe. Most, if not all, date back to the post-war period and find their genesis in stabilizing the postwar international system and in hedging against Soviet expansionism and the onset of the Cold War. As time has seen these original functions wither, the US alliance system has undergone bouts of regeneration and redefinition, as Washington and its allies have seen benefits in maintaining security ties.

The current global order is undergoing a period of intense transition which is taking place in a number of ways. First, the concentration of global economic and political power is moving away from the West towards Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC), particularly the latter two states as rising powers. While there are incredible benefits to humanity over the shift of this capital, questions over global governance institutions and their transformation, as well as shifts in military power, add an element of instability to the global system. Second, new technologies and social media are transforming politics and the power of subnational actors. Third, the revolution in transportation and shipping technologies and their associated costs from the 1960s onward, and their computerization and automation, have made the global economy a maritime-based one. This brings actors into closer contact, both at the state and nonstate level.

The old alliance structures that linked narrow US security objectives to global security concerns – such as NATO in the Atlantic and the US ‘hub and spokes’ system in the Pacific – require updates and in some cases, augmentation. This is not a particularly new observation: since the end of the Cold War a succession of US policymakers have made changes to the old alliance structure, implementing new ad hoc structures – such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the US-Japan trilateral relationships with Australia, South Korea, and more recently, India. In a sense, US policy-makers are reacting to the fluid state of global politics, by remolding US security institutions at home and abroad.

Extra-regional Alliance-building

Alliances have traditionally been regional, with bilateral and multilateral relationships developing around local threat perceptions. Up until the end of the Cold War, the US alliance system fell easily into this framework, with the exception of SEATO, which included European states in what was a predominantly Asian-focused alliance. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, US policymakers began to re-envision the alliance system for the newly conceived Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The success of the first Iraq War in 1991 had indicated that the US allies were willing and able to operate extra-regionally to help with US global security objectives. This was further amplified by the involvement of Asia Pacific allies in Operation Enduring Freedom and reconstruction activities in Iraq. The fact that US Department of Defense planners could at times request and anticipate troop contributions from Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the UK, and Denmark among others is a testament to this trend.

It is necessary to examine the trilateral structure and look at the benefits of expanding it from a regionally oriented body to a globally oriented structure. The trilateral as a type of alliance structure is not an entirely new one, but its current incarnation dates to the post-9/11 period, when the US sought new partnerships in its campaign on the GWOT and mechanisms for added stability in the Asia Pacific. The US-Japan-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) is arguably the most advanced example of a trilateral developed in recent times.[1] Initiated in sub-cabinet level talks in 2002, it was then upgraded to ‘strategic dialogue’ level in May 2005 under the Bush Administration, and has been maintained by the Obama administration under the auspices of the US ‘rebalancing’ to the region. Trilateral conversations also exist between the US, Japan, and South Korea, as well as the US, Japan, and India.

Perhaps, it is now time for the US, Japan and UK to develop a trilateral dialogue. The trilateral structure has already found to be a flexible one, bringing with it a level of adaptability not found in larger alliance structures, where consensus rules often act as a break on alliance adaption. Given the range of common security concerns, military interoperability, and developed alliance relationships, the UK and Japan are suited to a global trilateral strategy forum (TSF). The core functions of a US-Japan-UK trilateral strategy forum would be to more efficiently coordinate the efforts of each in nontraditional areas of security. While there are a multitude of areas for possible cooperation between the three, the authors of this paper have focused on three areas, considered to be ‘low-hanging fruit’ and include cybersecurity, stabilization, and biosecurity. The following three posts argue that track 1.5 dialogues in these three areas could lead to close cooperation between the various government agencies responsible for these areas.

While the development of US-Japan-UK activities seems to run against the ‘tyranny of geography’, this is no longer as true as it once was. First, the rules of geography are lessening, with maritime trade and the centrality of South Asia spanning the once-formidable distances. The Gulf of Aden and Afghanistan may be far from London, Tokyo, and Washinton, but both were found to be central to the security of all three.  Second, geography as a concept is less useful in a number of key security areas. These postings for example considers biosecurity and cybersecurity, in which geography plays little or no part. Such a grouping could prove an essential tool in the security objectives of the United States and its allies.

To read the original version of this chapter, please click here.

The Case for Trilateral Cybersecurity Cooperation

(Part 1 of UK-Japan-US Trilateral Proposal)

By Mihoko Matsubara


The cyber realm is part of a new security framework, extra-regional in nature and in threat. It is therefore fitting that real world allies should create a cyber-partnership to complement their cyber interests. Indeed, all three states have recently launched bilateral cybersecurity dialogues. Since they have many cybersecurity interests in common, and the borderless nature of cyber-threats requires international collaboration, this paper argues that it is more efficient to collaborate trilaterally.


  • Japan, the UK, and the US should develop a common definition on what constitutes “use of force” in order to legitimize and prompt proportional and necessary retaliation. They should also seek international advocates for an agreed approach.
  • Japan, the UK, and the US should reach a consensus on the area of responsibility (AOR) and a watch list to cover counter cyber-espionage. The three governments will review the AOR and the watch list on a yearly basis to reflect the dynamics of cyber-threats.
  • Japan, the UK, and the US should establish points of contact at relevant ministries or departments to share information on cyber-threats, and also a secure communication method to exchange such information.
  • Japan, the UK, and the US should share information on the methodology of cyber-attacks and alerts on ongoing or potential threats to minimize damages in a timely manner.
  • Japan, the UK, and the US should launch a common system to check supply chain risks and share that information to minimize cyber-espionage and sabotage on government/military equipment and critical infrastructures.

Current levels of dialogue

The three states remain committed to bringing the cyber realm under the auspices of international law. However, under current international legislation, the execution of self-defense requires the “attack” to constitute “use of force” in order to legitimate and prompt proportional and necessary retaliation. In September 2012, Harold Koh, Legal Advisor for the US Department of State, argued, “Cyber activities that proximately result in death, injury, or significant destruction would likely be viewed as a use of force.” If London and Tokyo agree with this principle, the three governments should define a threshold for what kind of “significant” destruction constitutes “a use of force” and set an example for the international community. Such a definition should seek to describe the impact of the destruction in order to justify and decide on a response. Such a definition could ultimately prove useful to other US allies.

Second, all three are concerned about the growing cases of cyber-espionage on industries that relate to national security. High technology-related industries, such as machine tools, chemical industries, and defence industries are all high-value targets of foreign cyber-espionage. The three states are already beginning to develop cooperation in these three areas: in December 2011, Tokyo eased the ban on arms export and indicated its interest in joint development of arms with the UK. In July 2013, the UK and Japan signed a defence equipment cooperation framework and information security agreement[1], indicating that this trend towards closer security cooperation is continuing. Such cooperation, however, is an Achilles’ heel for cyber-attack and requires trilateral detection and protection efforts. Information leaks can erode national security for all three. A prime example of this growing interoperability and the resultant vulnerability is the alleged exfiltration of information on the Lockheed F-35 fighter, which will be procured by all three countries. That China’s military stole data on the design, electronic system, and performance of the aircraft affects the security interests of all three.

Potential areas for deeper coordination

To counter cyber-espionage, both policy and technical approaches are necessary. The governments have to reach a consensus on the AOR and a watch list to cover. This decision-making should be assisted by geopolitical risk analysis and their strategic interests in terms of defense, economy, and social well-being. The governments will review the AOR and the watch list on a yearly basis to reflect the dynamics of cyber threats.


 It would be beneficial for the three governments to share the methodology of cyber-attacks and alerts on ongoing or potential threats to minimize damages in a timely manner. To do this, the three governments must establish a procedure and secure communication to exchange such information. They first need to assign a point of contact in relevant departments and ministries and reach an agreement on how to exchange information in a safe manner.

 Supply Chains

 Finally, it is indispensable for the three governments to minimize the risks of supply chains, which may lead to cyber espionage or sabotage on sensitive government/military equipment and critical infrastructures. For example, Bloomberg Businessweek warned in May 2012 that China is the “dominant source” of counterfeit components to the US defense supply chain.[2] Also, the 2012 US congressional report about Huawei and ZTE[3] indicates possible implanting of malicious software, hardware, or kill switches in electronic devices. These reports have made it clear that vulnerable supply chains can lead to cyber espionage and sabotage.

 Given the globalization and limited resources, it is challenging for the three countries to track every single component. Thus, they have to make a priority list on the types of equipment and systems to protect first. At the same time, it is necessary to reach an agreement on how to exchange information and prevent malicious components from going into their systems.

 Regulatory Framework

 London, Tokyo, and Washington must launch a trilateral cybersecurity cooperation framework to protect their shared interests and values and minimize cyber-threats on their critical infrastructures and military and economic strength. At the same time, the three governments should work with their allies and friendly countries to establish an international agreement on what constitutes “uses of force” in cyberspace.

To read this chapter in the original report, please click here.

Jeremy S. Maxie

Energy & Political Risk Consultant

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