today12 January 2023 54

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The deal makes the UK the first European country to have a reciprocal access agreement with Japan

Relations between the UK and Japan were “stronger than ever”, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, as the two countries signed a defence agreement to allow them to deploy forces in one another’s countries.

The deal, signed during a visit to London by Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, will make the UK the first European country to have a reciprocal access agreement with Japan.

The pact is part of the UK’s defence and foreign policy “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region, following an integrated review in 2021 that recognised the growing impact of China in the area.

The access agreement has been years in the making, with former prime minister Boris Johnson agreeing a deal in principle in May during Mr Kishida’s first official visit to Britain.

No 10 called it the most important defence treaty between London and Tokyo since 1902.

The Prime Minister, speaking to Mr Kishida before a bilateral meeting, referenced UK accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the war in Ukraine as he welcomed the Japanese leader to the Tower of London.

“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.

“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,” he said.

Mr Sunak offered “wholehearted support” for Japan as it prepares to host the G7 later this year, while also telling his counterpart that the UK “warmly welcomes the ambition in your national security strategy”.

The formal signing ceremony took place at the centuries old Thames-side castle, where Mr Kishida was greeted by a guard of honour of Yeomen Warders, also known as Beefeaters.

Governor of the Tower of London, Brigadier Andrew Jackson, and the Constable of the Tower of London, Sir Gordon Messenger, were both present to welcome the two leaders.

Mr Kishida thanked the Prime Minister for his “warm hospitality”, ahead of a private meeting.

“This year Japan has the presidency of the G7,” he told Mr Sunak.

“Let us have a strategic discussion, that would be our hope,” as he referred to the importance of security and co-operation between the two countries.

During the visit to the castle, Mr Sunak and Mr Kishida were shown Japanese armour presented to King James VI in 1613 by the then-Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada of Japan to mark the first trade agreement between England and Japan.

The Times reported that under the terms of the defence agreement British troops sent to Japan could face the death penalty if convicted of capital crimes, after British negotiators failed to get immunity from such a punishment for visiting personnel.

In a statement after the meeting, a Downing Street spokeswoman said the two leaders affirmed the agreement is an “important step” for their countries.

“Collaboration across defence and security would not only benefit Japan and the United Kingdom but broader global stability, the leaders agreed,” she said.

“Discussing Japan’s leadership of the G7 in such unprecedented times, the Prime Minister welcomed Prime Minister Kishida’s plans to focus on the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on global food and economic security.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

Written by: chris ciniglio

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