Japan happy to join Five Eyes

By Xu Yelu Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/3 16:23:40

Tokyo tunes into US security deal raising Beijing’s gaze

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacts during a budget committee session of the upper house at parliament on Thursday in Tokyo. Photo: AFP

Tokyo would welcome an invitation to join the Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence alliance, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono was quoted as saying, raising eyebrows from its neighbor China.

There has been rampant speculation that bilateral relations between China and Japan will further deteriorate after British media reported last week that the Five Eyes alliance - made up of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - is considering expanding its membership to include Japan.

Liu Junhong, an expert from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations who specializes in Japan issues, told the Global Times that Japan's willingness to join the bloc is based on its mistrust of China, despite bilateral relations being generally positive in the past two years. 

"Japan has close ties with the US in terms of security, as it has an inherent mistrust on security with China," Liu told the Global Times. 

"Domestic pressures from the pandemic cases and maritime issues in South and East China seas have made the Japanese government nervous, which leads to it seeking foreign support and intervention." 

Amid the ongoing China-US rivalry, many are worried that Japan will further provide information to the US, but experts believe that Japan's participation in the alliance will not make much difference to the US, as the two countries have already established close intelligence exchanges. 

Though voices within Japan appear to support the proposal, a Japan Times report noted that the cooperation between Japan and Five Eyes is only related to intelligence, while Japan still needs to maintain sensible cooperation on trade, investment, scientific research and — especially now — health and environmental issues.

"One important thing is that Britain and Australia could share the cake [if Japan is included in the alliance]," Liu told the Global Times. "Japan is actively seeking help from the West to alleviate its domestic pressure."

With a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in Tokyo, Japan might need China to ease its worsening economic prospects.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said last week that despite the severe challenges brought by the pandemic, the bilateral trade value between China and Japan in the first half of this year reached nearly $150 billion, and Japan's investment in China stood at around $2 billion, basically the same volume as the same period in 2019.

China-Japan economic and trade cooperation still yielded good results thanks to concerted efforts by both sides, he said. 

 "These notable results demonstrate the deep foundation, strong resilience and enormous potential in China-Japan relations," said Wang.

But Tokyo has already started to subsidize some companies to invest in factories in Japan and Southeast Asia, a move believed to be aimed at reducing reliance on manufacturing in China, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in March that Japan needed to bring production back home.

China is committed to working with Japan, along with South Korea, to facilitate early, substantive progress in trilateral free trade negotiations to reduce economic losses and accelerate the resumption of work and production for Chinese and Japanese companies amid the pandemic. 

Voices from some domestic Japanese media have called for the postponed Tokyo Olympics to be canceled, but China has voiced its support for Japan in hosting the Games as scheduled.

China-Japan relations have already been put in crisis after Japan's involvement in the Group of Seven over the national security law for Hong Kong. 

Tensions with China were further fueled by accusing it of pushing its territorial claims "under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic" in a defense white paper issued earlier in July. 

The paper also attacked the "relentless intrusions of Chinese troops in waters around a group of islets" of China's Diaoyu Islands.

The idea of a free trade zone under the FVEY alliance is also being considered, with some believing that it will downgrade Japan's trade volume with China, its largest trading partner.

"The proposed Five Eyes Free Trade Zone will not influence China the most, but it will impact Japan," Liu told the Global Times. "If Japan insists on undermining the sustainable development of China-Japan relations, there will inevitably be consequences." 


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