US reportedly wants to drag Japan in to Asian NATO

4 Mar, 2024 16:32 / Updated 3 months ago
Washington has started talks on inviting Tokyo to collaborate on defense tech, sources have told Nikkei Asia

The US is reportedly in discussions with the UK and Australia about inviting Japan to take part in weapons development under the AUKUS security partnership, outlet Nikkei Asia claimed on Saturday, citing US officials.

An official announcement of the partnership is expected to be made during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Washington next month, the outlet claimed, noting that Japan would be the first country invited to work with the trilateral AUKUS military technology sharing framework established in 2021 by Australia, the UK, and the US.

The report stressed that there are currently no talks about Japan becoming a formal member of the group and its participation is set to be limited to a very specific project tied to the development of cutting-edge defense technologies under the bloc’s so-called Pillar 2.

Under the AUKUS pact, Pillar 1 is devoted to helping Australia acquire conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines, while Pillar 2 is focused on the development and sharing of advanced tech with warfighting capabilities such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, undersea drones, hypersonic missiles and electronic warfare technologies.

While the White House and the Pentagon have neither confirmed nor denied the Nikkei Asia report, the US National Security Council’s senior director for East Asia and Oceania, Mira Rapp-Hooper suggested last month that Washington was indeed willing to invite a new country to Pillar 2 “in the very near term.”

Last month, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles stated that he wanted to work more closely with Japan on technological developments, but ruled out Tokyo’s involvement in the nuclear submarine project and suggested that it would take some time before cooperation can be established, as the Pillar 2 projects are also in their formative stages.

According to Nikkei Asia’s sources, Australia has been skeptical about including any additional countries in the AUKUS pact, worrying that doing so would complicate tech-sharing and delay development.

With regard to Japan specifically, there are reportedly concerns about it needing to make significant progress in the area of cybersecurity before it can fully contribute to weapon development under AUKUS.

One senior State Department official explained to the outlet that cybersecurity is “paramount” because “we understand our adversaries such as [China] do see an opportunity… [and] have a great interest in trying to obtain our defense information through our defense trade.”

China, meanwhile, has repeatedly condemned the AUKUS pact since it was established, arguing that its goal of equipping Australia with nuclear-powered subs poses serious “proliferation risks” and threatens the Asia-Pacific region.