Gavin Williamson in the Asia-Pacific Part II

Part two of a good read on the current and potential presence of the UK armed forces in the Asia Pacific.

The Future of the British Armed Forces

What sort of involvement?

We do get suggestions what exactly the UK should deploy to the Asia-Pacific, but more often than not, they are just voices for grandstanding. Some are just list of ideals like this from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) a whole list of what should be UK activities in the Asia-Pacific, now and post-Brexit. What really should be the UK’s plausible response to ensure stable security in the Asia-Pacific?

The UK military and political system actually is responding without such idealistic delusions of grandeur. First, the UK should continue or even try to slowly enlarge its permanent and temporary military presence in the region. British military deployments in Southeast Asia are already significant, despite what the analyst at HJS or other think tanks claim. The British Defence Singapore Support Unit (BDSSU), aka Naval Party 1022, is extremely well-valued by not just FPDA nations but other allied…

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Gavin Williamson in the Asia-Pacific Part I — The Future of the British Armed Forces

While many British people were either complaining about the weather or worrying about Brexit, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson and his delegation were abroad seven hours ahead of GMT plus 1 time. Namely, Williamson was in Malaysia, then Brunei and finally in Singapore for the annual Shangri-la Dialogue, or as known in social […]

via Gavin Williamson in the Asia-Pacific Part I — The Future of the British Armed Forces

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Allies agree Japan’s Mission to NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a joint press conference in Tokyo, 31 October 2017.

In 2011, Allies decided to invite all partner nations to establish Missions to NATO. Since then more than two dozen partners have done so, in order to further deepen ties with the Alliance.

Japan is NATO’s longest-standing partner outside Europe, with deepening cooperation since the early 1990s. Over the years, the Alliance and Japan have worked together to stabilize Afghanistan, to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia, and to strengthen partners like Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Jordan. Today, Japan has liaison officers at NATO, including at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium, and Maritime Command in the United Kingdom. Japan also contributes a staff officer in support of the Alliance’s work on Women, Peace and Security.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Tokyo in October 2017, where he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera. During the visit, both sides agreed to deepen cooperation in areas of common concern, including maritime security, cyber defence, nuclear non-proliferation, and gender mainstreaming in peace missions.

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Are ‘strategic partners’ the new ‘allies’?

Anglo-Japan Alliance


Is the “Strategic Partnership” the new type of Alliance we have been waiting for? According to Rajesh Basrur & Sumitha Narayanan Kutty in The Hindu, it may not make sense any longer to strive for the exalted status  ‘allies’, because “Alliances are passé“:

We live in a world today driven by “strategic partnerships”. States find themselves in an interdependent system where the traditional power politics of yesteryear doesn’t quite fit. After all, every major relationship characterised by strategic tension such as U.S.-China, Japan-China, India-China is simultaneously one of economic gain. The U.S. and China are each other’s chief trading partners, while China ranks at the top for Japan and India. Besides, India might confront China at Doklam but it also wants Chinese investment.

This is an observation with relevance for the Anglo-Japan relationship as well. According to Busrur and Kutty, strategic partnerships and alliances differ on the…

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North Korea is resurfacing the old Cold War fears. How did we get here?


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April 21, 2017 · 1:39 pm

French carrier to lead joint amphibious Pacific drill

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NATO and Asia-Pacific


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April 4, 2016 · 6:28 pm

The UK NSS and SDSR 2015: Its approach towards the Asia-Pacific

I am delighted to introduce Euro Asia Security Forum’s first guest post by Jie Sheng Li, researcher in international development.


The UK released the much-awaited 2015 National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) on 23 November 2015. A range of commentators heaved a sigh of relief as the document and the Prime Minister indicated a huge investment in military equipment, especially Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The review was, however, not just centred on military and defence policy, but indicating the UK’s foreign policy approach. This article aims to summarise the UK’s approach towards the Asia-Pacific as statement in the review and what it might indicate for the global arena.

It is commonly noted that the UK is no longer a military hard power player in the Asia-Pacific region especially since the mid-1990s. The UK instead has focused on its economic efforts to retain its influence in this region. The 2015 NSS and SDSR gave such an indication in the early paragraph 2.13, which stated “We are actively promoting closer relationships across the Asia-Pacific region.” It continued by stating the UK will form deeper relationships with emerging market economies such as China and India. This has already happened in the past decade or decades with UK exports to China expanding by 84% between 2010 and 2014. This culminated with the state visit of President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi in 2015. These examples indicate how the UK would use its economic power to maintain relations with Asia-Pacific giants.

A second and related means noted in the document was to use diplomatic means to assert power in the Asia-Pacific. The document states that a possible national security threat could be competition over historical territorial claims (paragraph 3.24). The UK government thus has pledged to strengthen cooperation with the range of countries in the region. The document devoted a section to the Asia-Pacific, starting off saying that the UK would support Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. This is of course welcome given Japan’s prominence in the global political arena and its strength for example as a G8 ( ) member. Such a support, however, may bring stiff opposition from China due to its historical differences with Japan ( and similarly, South Korea ( The rest of the section again states how the UK will strengthen relations by forging economic agreements, particularly with India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The 2015 NSS and SDSR also stated that the UK would heavily engage with the multilateral system. This might in turn aid with the stability and development of Asia-Pacific countries. It also pledged to work with the International Financial Institutions and pledged to reform them where necessary. The UK, unlike the US, further joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), indicating its interest to work with a new financial order ( ). While such moves may be welcomed, the UK’s ultimate aim is to maintain the capitalist-centred, neoliberal, rule-based world order. The UK’s efforts thus may create adverse not positive impact on south Asian countries.

A further means of approaching or influencing Asia-Pacific means is through soft power tools. The document noted that the UK would use the BBC to spread UK values and ideas globally. It pledged to invest “£85 million each year by 2017/18” in BBC services to improve its reach (paragraph 5.17). It has further planned to fund a BBC radio service that reaches into North Korea ( ). Another more prominent tool is the UK’s development aid, which has risen since 2010. The report pledged to meet the UN 0.7% of GDP target and also spend 50% of UK aid in conflict-affected countries. Aid will be a prominent tool in curbing global instability. This is again welcomed, though DFID has little projects in conflict-affected states such as Cambodia and Laos (see DFID’s development tracker ). It remains to been seen where this shift of aid will head towards.

The above show that the UK will be using its non-military tools to maintain its presence and influence the Asia-Pacific region. This is however not to say the UK will not exert military power over there. As the review noted, the UK is still a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and still maintains personnel in the logistic depot in Singapore and the Integrated Air Defence System in Malaysia. The review also noted that the UK continues to have a Gurkha garrison in Brunei, although it hardly exercises with regional armed forces. The UK, despite its smaller armed forces, still values the Asia-Pacific and has even established a liaison officer with the US Pacific Fleet and Japanese forces ( ). The UK, despite its economic conditions and the geographical distance, should still maintain defence engagement with Asia-Pacific countries as unknown events may threaten UK interests there.(

This article has shown the UK’s approach to the Asia-Pacific as noted in the 2015 NSS and SDSR. It has shown that the UK will engage and influence the region mainly through economic, political and development means. It has indicated the shortcomings to the various pledges. Despite the lack of military presence, the UK will still however maintain its personnel presence in the Asia-Pacific in the long term. The NSS and SDSR has presented a holistic blueprint for UK engagement with the Asia-Pacific. It remains to be seen it there will be the resources to carry it through and the political will.

This is a guest post by Jie Sheng Li, researcher in international development. Comments welcome!




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Not with a bang, but a white paper: How British power could fall apart this autumn

A tough assessment worth reading.


UK Prime Minister David Cameron and and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speaking at a joint press conference (photo: Cabinet Office). UK Prime Minister David Cameron and and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speaking at a joint press conference (photo: Cabinet Office).

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This article was written by a serving military officer from a NATO member state. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the position of any organisation or government.

Britain is not under attack, but its place in the world is under fire. The semi-official Chinese Global Times has denigrated the United Kingdom as ‘an old declining empire’ which engages in ‘eccentric acts it takes to hide [its] embarrassment’. The Russians are brazenly flying bombers close enough to its airspace that the Royal Air Force has to scramble fighter aircraft to deal with them once a month, prompting the Scottish National Party to claim that the North Sea is now defended by ‘fishing vessels and social media’. British commentators…

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The quiet progress of Japan-Europe security and defence cooperation

d0715_headerimgnewThis is an excellent article by Michito Tsuruoka from the Japan National Institute of Defence Studies.

The author notes how fast the cooperative relationship has deepened, but how little known it remains outside a small circle of experts. Tsuruoka is concerned that is awareness remains low, both parties stand to lose out on a chance of really substantive gains. To counter this, he sets out some ideas on its potential and areas of mutual benefit. With apologies for shortcomings in my Japanese language comprehension, a summary follows.

Although networks for cooperation have expanded, expectations are limited by the fact that neither side expects Europe to play a direct military role in Asian security. From Japan’s point of view, Defence Diplomacy and Europe’s consistent support for the maintenance of international rules-based order is seen as important, especially in terms of maritime freedom of movement. As well as such relations with European states, Tsuruoka would like to see relations strengthened with EU defence institutions such as the EU Military Committee and the EU Military Staff. He suggests Japan (which shares European values and interests) would be a good partner in extending conflict prevention activity and action to cope with the effects of a military conflict in the region.

Cooperation should also be pursued outside the Asian region, such as in the Middle East and Africa. Other fields like cyber and space and especially joint development of hardware offer a new frontier. Interoperability is key, and the ‘soft’ side is as important as the hard side here, so there’s a need to work more intimately on concepts, terminology and plans in order to make it possible to understand one-other’s decision making processes and ways of working. More joint training is suggested.

Compared to the USA, the scale of capability and the estimate of what is possible are similar between Japan and European nations such as the UK, France and Germany, who have much to learn from one another.

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