Integration Of Japan Into AUKUS – OpEd


The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom members of the AUKUS partnership are looking into collaborating with Japan on advanced capabilities initiatives. Pillar Two of the AUKUS comprises submarine capabilities, cyber, hypersonic, and counter-hypersonic capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI), and electronic warfare capabilities. Partners have repeatedly said that once work is completed, they hope to include more countries in Pillar Two initiatives. Each of the three AUKUS countries has close bilateral links with other nations, which the future cooperation will strengthen.

Announced in September 2021, the “AUKUS” defense pact is a major initiative with regional and international ramifications that was agreed by Australia, the USA, and the United Kingdom. The deal revolves around a promise to assist Australia in constructing at least eight attack submarines with nuclear propulsion, utilizing American technology and British designs. The planned entry into service of these submarines is after 2040.

As a trilateral commitment, submarine capabilities are Pillar One of the AUKUS initiative. Submarine development is moving forward. The AUKUS countries will evaluate if enlisting the support of like-minded countries such as Japan would enhance the advancement of capabilities. This year, consultations will start on how possible partners including Japan can support and profit from Pillar Two efforts. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, and UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps recently confirmed Japan’s possible involvement in AUKUS in a joint statement.

About Tokyo’s participation in Pillar II, there are growing worries in Canberra and London as this announcement happens. Concerns over Japan’s security system’s ability to protect extremely sensitive data have been voiced by Australia and the UK. The alliance’s primary strategic goal, known as “Pillar I,” of providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarines is something that many in Canberra and London are deeply concerned about potentially losing if AUKUS is expanded to include more nations. This emphasizes the need to strike a balance between expanding the alliance’s reach and maintaining its primary mission.

Integrating Tokyo not only within Pillar II but also within Pillar I. Supporting Japan in obtaining nuclear-powered submarines similar to those planned for Australia. Tokyo started the path of rearmament under the tenure of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Japan announced in its 2022 national security plan that it will quadruple military spending, to reach an annual total of approximately US$80 billion by 2027. This would place Japan as the third-largest military spender globally, after the US and China.

Japan, the UK, and Italy have already demonstrated themselves to be effective partners in sixth-generation fighter jet development, known as GCAP. The Hiroshima Accord, a historic new strategic alliance between the UK and Japan, was reached last year. The joint statement was released one year after US President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Albanese met in San Diego, and two weeks after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary David Cameron traveled to Australia for consultations with their counterparts. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was also present at the meeting.

In light of a fragile security environment surrounding the Philippines, the Korean Peninsula, and Taiwan, Tokyo’s inclusion in AUKUS could hasten Japan’s military development into a potent bulwark in the Asia-Pacific, standing shoulder to shoulder with US forces. AUKUS needs all hands on deck to preserve stability, prosperity, and the rule of law in this extremely crucial theatre as the Asia-Pacific region faces an increasing security threat. Japan is a definite force multiplier for the alliance with its changing military posture, growing defense capabilities, and extremely valued shipbuilding capacity.

Japan can reap significant advantages from joining AUKUS Pillar II, including the disbursement of expenses related to the capabilities needed to generate a credible deterrence and accelerate its military modernization processes. It carries with it its large industrial and technological foundation, which benefits the current members of AUKUS. 

Nazia Sheikh

Nazia Sheikh is a Research Officer at Centre for International Strategic Studies, AJK. Her research area is Arms Control and Disarmament.

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