US, UK and Australia consider co-operation with Japan on Aukus security pact

Formed by the three countries in 2021, Aukus is part of efforts to push back against China’s power

Britain, the US and Australia said on Monday they were considering working with Japan through their Aukus security pact as part of an extended effort to counter China’s power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Britain said consultations on future co-operation between the three Aukus partners and other nations including Japan were set to begin this year.

A summit in Washington between US president Joe Biden and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday is expected to address Japan’s possible future involvement in Aukus “advanced capabilities” projects, but officials and experts say obstacles remain given the need for Japan to introduce better cyber defences and stricter rules for guarding secrets.

Aukus, formed by the three countries in 2021, is part of efforts to push back against China’s growing influence.


Its first stage, or “pillar”, is designed to deliver nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia. The statement did not propose Japan would be involved in this part of the pact.

However, a second pillar is focused on delivering advanced capabilities and sharing technologies across a range of areas including quantum computing, undersea, hypersonic, artificial intelligence and cyber technology.

“Recognising Japan’s strengths and its close bilateral defence partnerships with all three countries, we are considering co-operation with Japan on Aukus Pillar II advanced capability projects,” Britain, the US and Australia said in joint statement published by the British government.

It said Aukus members had long been clear on their intent to involve other countries in the second pillar, and that it would take into account factors such as “technological innovation, financing, industrial strengths, ability to adequately protect sensitive data and information, and impact on promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”.

China has called the Aukus pact dangerous and warned it could spur a regional arms race.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said earlier on Monday that nothing had been decided about co-operation with Aukus.

The second pillar of Aukus already faces headwinds due to US restrictions on sharing technological secrets with Australia and Britain, two of Washington’s most trusted partners.

Bill Greenwalt, a former senior Pentagon official for industrial policy, said it was premature to discuss Japanese involvement.

“If we can’t integrate with the UK and Australia on something as important as Aukus, there is no chance to do so with Japan whose security apparatus is still in a peacetime mode and immature,” said Mr Greenwalt, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

In February, Japan said it would introduce economic security legislation to allow it to classify more information as confidential and ask employees at companies with access to it to undergo security clearance checks. – Reuters