Britain pledges defence support for Japan[:]

Sailors stand on the deck of the Izumo warship as it departs from the harbour of the Japan United Marine shipyard in Yokohama, south of Tokyo March 25, 2015. Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force on Wednesday took delivery of the biggest Japanese warship since World War Two, the Izumo, a helicopter carrier as big as the Imperial Navy aircraft carriers that battled the United States in the Pacific. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – GF10000037447
Britain is offering unprecedented levels of military support to Japan in the wake of the growing threat from North Korea and tensions with China.

The United Kingdom will send two aircraft carriers, HMS Argyll and HMS Sutherland, to the Asia Pacific region in 2018 and will deploy British personnel to join military training on the Japanese mainland, following a recent successful exercise involving British Typhoon fighter planes.

In addition, defence and cyber security companies from the UK are collaborating to help defend Japan against hackers and terrorists.

The arrangements were announced by the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

The ministers reaffirmed that the UK and Japan are each other’s closest security partners in Europe and Asia respectively. Although the British government prefers not to use the word “alliance” when referring to Japan, some commentators have described the relationship as a “semi-alliance.”

Common values

During a trip to the National Maritime Museum in London’s Greenwich, the ministers discussed the UK-Japan alliance which existed at the beginning of the 20th Century. Afterwards, Mr Johnson said: “Looking at the maritime history of the countries and the identity that we share, it’s confirmation again that we have the same values, the same outlook and increasingly the same interests in the world.”

The meeting, known as the Two Plus Two summit, also involved Britain’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Urgent threat

Mr Onodera welcomed Britain’s military support and described North Korea as “a most urgent and important threat.” He warned that Japan would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and said that both the UK and Japan believe that upholding the rule of law is the “top priority for democracy and security in the region.”

Foreign Secretary Johnson said that “Japan and the UK really do see eye-to-eye” on North Korea. He said the best way forward is to ramp up the economic pressure on North Korea and “the people who can really do that are the Chinese.”

“The military options don’t look at all attractive,” said Mr Johnson, “that is why we want to see an international diplomatic effort.”

Missile tests
Japan and the United Kingdom are co-developing a weapon known as the Joint New Air-to-Air Missile (JNAAM). Live fire testing is expected to begin in 2018. According to Francis Tusa, Editor of Defence Analysis, it is a rare example of Japan working with a country other than the United States on a defence project. He believes Japan chose the system because of its compatibility with its aircraft. However, he does not expect the collaboration with the UK to dent the alliance between Japan and the United States.
“The US and Japan are very tight and it is hard for another country such as the UK to disrupt that relationship,” says Mr Tusa. “There are around 15,000 US marines stationed in Okinawa and around 250 US military planes in the region. What would Britain send to Japan in the event of a conflict with North Korea? Maybe only 14 planes and how long would they take to get there?” asks Mr Tusa.
Arms race
Japan is seeking to boost its defence capacity following a series of ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests by North Korea and increased Chinese activities in the East and South China Seas.
Foreign Minister Kono told reporters in London that the North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles can reach not only South Korea and Japan but also other parts of Asia, the United States and Europe and therefore represent a new and dangerous threat to the international community.
Japan also fears sea and air clashes with China in disputed areas of the East China Sea. In response to the rising tension, Japan’s Ministry of Defence has requested a record budget of 5,255 billion yen ($48 billion) for 2018.
Francis Tusa says: “The Chinese are spending a huge amount of money on defence, building up to six new aircraft carriers, so I’m not surprised that a bit of an arms race is developing in the region.”
Cyber threat
In response to the growing threat of malicious cyber activity, the Japanese and British ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and will hold a conference on the issue in February 2018. They confirmed that the UK and Japan would pool information in order to deter or mitigate malicious cyber activities.
In the spring of 2017, Britain’s National Health Service was hit by a cyber attack which was launched from North Korea, according to Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre.
Francis Tusa of Defence Analysis says: “You need many friends to counter cyber attacks. I don’t think any one single country has all the technology and resources needed to tackle the cyber problem. You need big data and many experts to combat the threat.”
Job opportunities
British ministers hope that some of the increased defence spending by Japan will flow to UK arms companies which are seeking valuable contracts to secure jobs in manufacturing and technology.
Britain is aiming to deepen its trading ties with major economies outside Europe such as Japan and China as the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union, the world’s biggest trading bloc.
The China factor
The Two Plus Two summit with Japan in London took place simultaneously with another top level set of talks involving senior British politicians in China.
The British Chancellor (Finance Minister) Philip Hammond and the Business Secretary Greg Clark were in Beijing for the UK China Economic and Financial Dialogue.
The British government said that meeting secured more than £1bn ($1.3 bn) of trade and i

“Adorably mad” Japan delights the motoring press

The view that Japan is a weird place full of “adorably mad” machines is strongly reinforced by international press coverage of this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.
“Stay strange, Tokyo” began an article by the journalist Jeremy Korzeniewski, who compiled a comprehensive report on the event on Autoblog. He explains that “the Tokyo Motor Show never fails to show off the weird, wacky, and wild side of the automotive industry.”

The biennial show is focused on concept cars, so most vehicles are not designed for daily use but are offered as ideas for the future. The website of the popular BBC motoring show Top Gear has many pages of pictures and reports about delightfully eccentric machines. Top Gear heaps special praise on the “adorably mad” concepts of Suzuki. Other websites such as Jalopnic reckon Mazda “stole the show.”

Pretty models

The Daily Telegraph said that that “the planet is receiving its biennial boost of Japanese weirdness, from crazy concept cars through to the most implausible mobility technology.” This stereotype of the Japanese as strange, wacky, weird and crazy is reinforced by the photographs on many websites which include pretty female models posing beside the cars. Some sites, such as Autoguide, baited their readers with pictures of “the weirdest and wildest cars” including a big slideshow by the photographer Dino Dalle Carbonare.

Friendly cars

The PR people from the Japanese car makers have plenty of stories to feed the foreign journalists at the show. Toyota has claimed its new concept vehicle can “understand” drivers so that the machines and users can “bond as partners.”

According to AFP “Concept-i is a futuristic four-wheel model that reviews the person’s behaviour patterns, as well as latest news and social media activity, to assess what the driver needs or wants to hear in a given situation, like offering comforting words to a parent after a fight with a teenage daughter inside the vehicle.”
Positive news

The carmakers hope the positive coverage of the motor show will counterbalance the recent negative publicity about safety scandals including problems at Nissan and Kobe Steel.

Concept cars are fun to write about but Japan also wants to be trusted. So manufacturers should be pleased with a report on the performance of their ordinary cars in What Car magazine. It said that half the most reliable cars sold in the UK are Japanese.