Japan in Five Eyes will roil region
Published: Feb 06, 2019 10:52 AM

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

The group of five countries — Five Eyes — sharing intelligence, is trying to rope in Japan and Germany, according to a Reuters report in October, 2018.Egging on Tokyo to be a part of the group comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, Japanese media recently claimed that "Japan deserves to be the Sixth Eye." Even if the Abe administration hasn't clearly expressed its intention, it is possible that Japan will join the alliance.

The main reason is that the US, the leader of the Five Eyes alliance, intends to bring in Japan. In the context of the Indo-Pacific strategy, Washington needs new helpers to place its so-called rivals in Eurasia under surveillance. Japan and other US partners are unlikely to refuse such request. The Five Eyes alliance is a group of English-speaking countries with white people forming a majority of the population.

It is also a ruling circle set up by the US and UK in the early stages of the Cold War. But the current regional challenges are severe, and the US may as well rope in an island country in East Asia. Japan's geopolitical condition helps the US to watch out for the Asia-Pacific region. As an important Asian country, Japan will help the US in intelligence gathering and forming a geopolitical barrier. Since the two countries have already forged a military alliance, they will enhance intelligence cooperation as a matter of course.

Joining the alliance will also benefit Japan. Contributing to Washington's hegemony to elevate its standing among US allies seems worthwhile for Japan. After attempts to break away from Asia, move close to Europe and the US, Japan can eventually join the Western hegemon's main ruling clique.  Exchanging intelligence with the Five Eyes group will also benefit Japan's own information security, and will help create more opportunities for development.

But picking sides may harm Japan's relations with the countries under surveillance. If Japan joins the alliance, it will be duty bound to exchange intelligence that harms the interests of those being snooped on. Japan may even impose technological blockade and exclude those being targeted from trade, which may lead to a domino effect. Tokyo should decide which is more important —the US or the emerging countries of Eurasia. While weighing joining the alliance, Japan should also take the country's influence, benefits and potential risks of joining the group into consideration. Japan will certainly strive for its own interest instead of endangering itself for other's gains.

Japan may also choose to temporarily stay away from the Five Eyes bloc or give itself some leeway, considering "America First" is deeply embedded in current US foreign policy. US political scientist Francis Fukuyama once declared that we were seeing "the end of history." But it has been proved that human history won't end at a destination set up by a single country. Any system or organization that can't keep up with the times will decay. The Five Eyes alliance is now trying to loop in a non-English-speaking East Asian country. This not only shows that the alliance is yielding to geopolitical pressure, but also implies that it was wrong to divide countries into blocs. Japan is an Asian country with outstanding achievements in culture and a modern civilization. Now that China-Japan relations are looking up, Tokyo should factor in long term interests.

If Japan gets into the Five Eyes fold, they will together build a system of intelligence exchange mechanism against China. Besides, Japan will also increase its investment in the area, which will add pressure on China's intelligence and information security. China should improve its information security mechanism, develop intelligence and research work, and try its best to defuse the threat that the Five Eyes alliance will pose to China.

The author is a professor of National Defense University of People's Liberation Army. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn