Japan, Britain strike 'historic accord' on cooperation in defense, clean energy, semiconductors

Japan and Britain have struck what they are calling a historic accord on cooperation in defense, clean energy and semiconductors

Elaine Kurtenbach
Thursday 18 May 2023 14:54 BST

Japan and Britain agreed Thursday to cooperate in a broad range of areas including defense, clean energy, cybersecurity and semiconductors.

The pact was announced as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held talks ahead of the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

The two sides said the pact would strengthen their cooperation in economic, security and technological fields.

The accord includes plans for a “semiconductors partnership” to improve the supply chain for the components so vital for automobiles, defense technology and many modern consumer products.

It involves “new commitments to pursue ambitious R&D cooperation and skills exchange, strengthening our domestic sectors and bolster supply chain resilience in an increasingly competitive market,” the British government said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, Sunak said Japanese companies had committed to investing 17.7 billion pounds ($22 billion) in clean energy projects. They include funding for offshore wind, low carbon hydrogen and other clean energy projects.

Britain has been pursuing closer trade ties with Japan and other Asian countries after leaving the European Union. As part of that effort it has formally applied to join a regional trade bloc, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.

More than half of the investment pledged by Japan will come from the trading house Marubeni Corp. and will go to offshore wind and green hydrogen projects in Scotland and Wales.

Japan and Britain also agreed to “ensure diverse, resilient, and sustainable critical mineral supply chains needed for clean energy technologies,” Japan's trade ministry said in a statement. It said the cooperation would also aim to improve standards in the industry. Mining of such minerals has often been plagued with labor abuses and environmental damage.

Sumitomo Corp., another major trading house, plans to expand offshore wind projects in the United Kingdom. Its affiliate Sumitomo Electric Industries plans to build a factory to make high-voltage cables in the Scottish Highlands, it said.

Sunak visited a Japanese naval base earlier Thursday and announced plans for closer defense cooperation — dubbed the “Vigilant Isles” —by doubling the size of joint military exercises, deploying Britain's Carrier Strike Group in the Indo-Pacific in 2023 and expanding an air defense program.

The fleet, made of an aircraft carrier, its escorts and its aircraft, will work with the Japan Self Defense Forces and other regional partners to “help defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” the British government said.

“The Hiroshima Accord will see us step up cooperation between our armed forces, grow our economies together and develop our world-leading science and technology expertise. It marks an exciting next phase in the U.K. and Japan’s flourishing partnership,” Sunak said in a statement.

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