British troops in Japan could be hanged if they are found guilty of serious crimes under a new defence agreement due to be signed by Rishi Sunak. Here Japanese, American, British and Australian troops took part in an annual exercise
Welcoming his Japanese counterpart to London, Mr Sunak referenced the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the war in Ukraine, in brief remarks before the meeting at the historic venue.
‘It is fantastic to welcome you here to London and to the United Kingdom, it is a great pleasure to have you here at the Tower of London,’ he said.
‘The relationship between our two countries is stronger than ever, not just across trade and security but also our values and I think we saw that brilliantly demonstrated last year.’
Mr Kishida in turn thanked the Prime Minister for his ‘warm hospitality’.
‘This year, Japan has the presidency of the G7,’ he told the PM. ‘Let us have a strategic discussion, that would be our hope.
‘Thank you so much for creating this opportunity,’ he told Mr Sunak, as he referenced the importance of security and cooperation between the two countries.’
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: ‘This important bilateral agreement has Labour’s full backing.
‘It lays the foundation for joint defence developments with a close ally in a time of escalating uncertainty. Now we expect ministers to lay out a long-term plan, not just sign this agreement with Japan today.’
Mr Kishida’s visit to London is part of a whistle-stop tour to five G7 nations, marking Japan taking on the rotating presidency of the group for 2023.
His trip, which will see him visit France, Italy, the UK, Canada and finally the US in five days, comes as Japan breaks from its post-war restraint to take on more offensive roles, with an eye toward China.
Japan announced last month it had adopted security and defence reforms, including a counter-strike capability that breaks from an exclusively self-defence-only principle that had been in place since its Second World War defeat.
While at the historic Tower of London, Mr Sunak and Mr Kishida viewed Japanese armour on display.
It was presented to King James I in 1613 by the then-Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada of Japan to mark the first-ever trade agreement between England and Japan.
The death penalty is legal in Japan for cases of ‘aggravated murder’, which include mass killings or the murder of children.
The Ministry of Defence believes diplomatic pressure could be applied to avoid hangings and that the benefits of the deal are worth the risk, according to The Times.
British negotiators were seeking an agreement to give their troops immunity – but ended up agreeing to a treaty similar to Australia’s with Japan.
The pact also discusses immigration, the transport of weapons and the legal rights of visiting military personnel when they visit Japan.
After the PM’s talks with Mr Kishida, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: ‘Collaboration across defence and security would not only benefit Japan and the United Kingdom, but broader global stability, the leaders agreed.
‘Discussing Japan’s leadership of the G7 in such unprecedented times, the PM welcomed PM Kishida’s plans to focus on the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on global food and economic security.
‘Reflecting on the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade bloc with a combined GDP of £9trillion, the PM said it offered the UK a unique opportunity to join a group of likeminded countries who shared similar values.
‘The PM added that future growth and prosperity for all countries would be driven by collaboration and innovation, and both leaders agreed there was huge potential for growth across the two countries’ economies.’
Last month Japan announced it would double its defence spending to better protect itself against threats from North Korea and China.
It comes after a US warship riled China on Thursday by sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
It will strengthen defence ties between Britain and Japan in the face of increasing threats from China and North Korea – after troops have been taking part in training exercises together
The Chinese military held large-scale joint combat strike drills starting Sunday, sending warplanes and navy vessels toward Taiwan on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday.
British forces have conducted joint exercises with US and Japanese troops recently.
In November British and Japanese troops practised retaking an island. Last month the soldiers took part in a bilateral war game exercise in Gunma prefecture in central Japan.
The last instance of capital punishment in Japan took place in July but there are 107 people currently on death row.
Kishida’s visit to London is part of a wider trip including France, Italy, Canada and the US – ahead of hosting the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima in May.