SSU Forum / GraSPP Research Seminar
with Dr. David Ellis and Mr. James Hardy

Date: Tuesday, October 23 2018, 12:20-13:50
Venue: Lecture Hall B, 4th Floor, International Academic Research Bldg.
Subject: "Britain, Japan and the future of Asia-Pacific security"
Lecture: Dr. David Ellis (Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy Tokyo)
Mr. James Hardy (Senior Research Analyst, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, U.K.)
Language: English
Hosted by: Security Studies Unit, Policy Alternatives Research Institute, the University of Tokyo / GraSPP Research Seminar, the University of Tokyo
Abstract: The Asia-Pacific region is increasingly viewed by the West as the next inevitable power-house, both in terms of military/security issues and economic prosperity. This seminar provides perspectives on current and emerging trends in UK-Japan relations and how the two countries view the future of Asia-Pacific security. The view of a practitioner at the British Embassy Tokyo is presented in combination with a macro-level analysis of regional trends from a UK perspective at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
Biography: Dr. David Ellis took on the role of Minister and Deputy Head of Mission on 1 August 2016. He is responsible for advancing UK-Japan relations on political and security issues. He also oversees the consular and visa operations as well the Embassy’s corporate operations. 2011 – 2015 Minister-Counsellor (Political), British Embassy Beijing. Responsibilities included leading political teams covering Chinese domestic politics, human rights, and foreign and security policy.
Mr. James Hardy is the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s senior research analyst on Japan and east Asian security affairs. Mr. Hardy focuses on regional security issues and arrangements, alliance networks, and military capabilities; he is also particularly interested in Japan’s evolving security and defence policies and its domestic political arrangements. Before joining the FCO, he worked as Asia-Pacific Editor for Jane’s Defence Weekly, and was a staff writer for The Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo.

The Security Studies Unit of PARI, in collaboration with the Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP), was delighted to host a talk with Dr. David Ellis, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission of the British Embassy to Japan, and Mr. James Hardy, Senior Research Analyst for Japan and East Asia, Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom.

The session was chaired by Yee-Kuan Heng, Professor of International Relations at GraSPP, while Chiyuki Aoi, Professor of International Relations at GraSPP, acted as a discussant.

Professor Heng introduced the speakers to the audience, thanking them for agreeing to be deliver a timely talk about Britain’s Asia-Pacific Security strategy.

Dr. Ellis opened his talk by thanking the host and explained that two diplomatic postings in Beijing and two in Tokyo, have given him some experience in the regional political landscape. He based his presentation on three themes: the “tyranny of history”, the condition of being “prisoners of geography”, and finally the idea that “no country is an island”.
The tyranny of history refers to the fact that the Asia Pacific region hosts two of the last frozen conflicts from the Cold War era, namely a divided Korean peninsula and the question of Taiwan. Concerning Korea, the development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems by the DPRK regime poses an unacceptable threat to peace and international order not only in the region or to the US, but also to the UK The UK is now in range of DPRK ICBMs, and the UK, as a P5 member has a key role in upholding the Rules Based International System. Dr. Ellis reminded the audience that the UK still retains a number of direct commitments in the Asia-Pacific region, for instance with the Five Powers Defence Agreement and a military garrison in Brunei. He noted that President Trump’s diplomatic initiative has created space for a potential agreement for DPRK nuclear disarmament. The UK supports these efforts and the ultimate goal of Complete Verifiable, Irreversible Disarmament (CVID). The UK stands ready to support the international effort and has nuclear technologies, particularly in nuclear decommissioning which could prove useful in the de-nuclearisation process, if and when it begins.

With regard to Taiwan, Dr. Ellis remarked that there are growing risks of a political and security crisis in the area in the years and decades to come. The People’s Republic of China has made clear its position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and that national reunification, by whatever means, is China’s goal. It is well-known that China has been drafting contingency plans, including military options, and developing its military capabilities, to blockade or invade the island.
The rise of China has challenged Western paradigms of the links between economic growth and the process of democratization. When China joined the WTO in 2001, many Western analysts believed that a certain level of economic development would inevitably lead to democratization. This has not occurred in China, and China’s model of state capitalism, authoritarian government and rapid economic development presents an alternative model to those of the West. As China expands its economic engagement and influence, it is also rapidly expanding its military capabilities. Regionally we have seen this in how China is asserting its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Chinese vessels regularly navigate near the Senkaku islands, stretching Japanese coastguard capabilities. And Chinese land reclamation in the South China Seas, as well as its refusal to accept the decision of the UN Tribunal, have raised tensions. These activities pose significant challenges to the current RBIS. Chinese military development has focused not simply on conventional arms, but space and cyberspace capabilities which will give it a global reach.
Beijing has also deepened its political and military cooperation with Russia. Indeed Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have had more bilateral meetings in the past few years than any other heads of state in the region. The recent “Vostok 18” military exercise in Russia is an example of the increased level of military cooperation between the two countries.

This uncertain security environment requires credible responses from like-minded countries in the region who have a shared interest in the rule of law and free trade. The UK is very much committed to a stable and secure Asia Pacific. The visit last year of Prime Minister May demonstrated that Japan is the UK’s most important partner in this region. Dr. Ellis listed the deep and wide engagement on security and other issues between Japanese and British government officials and agencies. He noted that the UK has deployed fighter aircraft, naval vessels, and army unit to Japan over the last two years for joint exercises; the first non-US partner to do so on Japanese soil. While there has been great progress, some hurdles remain: one is the complicated task of matching and interfacing the various bureaucracies and legislative frameworks. The second challenge is to articulate and align political objectives. In this respect, the debate over government proposals to reform Article 9 of the Japanese constitution will be seen as a bellwether for Japan’s ambitions to become a more active actor in international security.
Dr. Ellis concluded by noting that the UK and Japan share common values: democracy, the rule of law, multilateralism and the creation of solid international frameworks of rules for international economic and political engagement. Finally, he stressed the importance of Asia in this coming century; Asia will be the engine of eoncomic growth, the home of creativity and prosperity and will by the end of the century be hoem to 44% of the world’s population.

Mr. Hardy opened his intervention by thanking the organisers of the event. He suggested that the international political situation in the Asia Pacific region could be described as a “hot peace” rather than a “cold war”. While in the 1990s the mood and even the prevailing political-philosophical argument was that of optimism with regard to the achievement of a stable peace brought about by the spreading of liberal democracy and market economies, the current landscape is one where geostrategic considerations have returned, and national interests appear to be back as the starting point of policy planning and action. We can perhaps see this in the recurrence of interest in the pre-war strategic thinkers such as Spykman, Mahan and Corbett.

However, the most important development is the continuous rise of China, especially its transformation from a continental to maritime power. The maritime domain is where China is using its newly acquired economic might in the most visible way. Beijing has been pursuing policies in these areas which can be regarded as disruptive to international norms, particularly in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, but not only there. The UK is responding to this state of affairs by seeking to uphold the rule of law.

But what is the role for Britain in this part of the world? Britain has been involved in Asia for very long time, indeed for centuries. Even after the “East of Suez” decision, whereby London decided to withdraw from its bases located mainly in Malaysia and Singapore in the 1968-1971 period, the UK has maintained its security commitments and ties with a number of countries. London wishes to remain involved in Asia, because the twenty-first century is going to be the century of Asia, and Britain wants to have a say in shaping it. This is why the relationship with Japan is so important.
In most cases, the UK is considered as a welcome partner, particularly in Japan. Between the two countries there are now quasi-alliance arrangements, for instance in the military sphere, where UK forces have been the only troops, except for the Americans, to conduct exercises on Japanese territory. Britain has also helped Japan with expertise on how to set up a National Security Council. For both countries, support of freedom of navigation and the provisions of UNCLOS for the management of maritime disputes is a cornerstone of their respective maritime security policies. Looking forward, Mr. Hardy remarked that this cooperation can be significantly expanded. Japan may soon become the sixth country in the intelligence-sharing agreement known as the “five eyes”. “Minilateralism”, namely a form of tight cooperation among a restricted number of countries, seems to be the way of the future also in geostrategic terms, as already visible in initiatives like the “Quad” (Japan, US, India, Australia). Finally, Mr. Hardy remarked that, consciously or unconsciously, it seems that the world is moving towards a realist political landscape, where politics will entail balancing and hedging.

Professor Aoi thanked the speakers and remarked that GraSPP is genuinely happy to have a dialogue with practitioners, and cooperation with the UK is particularly welcome. She commented on the two presentations by praising them for highlighting the convergence of interests between the two countries. Japan has a middle power orientation in terms of foreign policy and defence posture, and can learn a great deal in areas where the UK has much more experience. Professor Aoi also agreed that the two countries have the potential to work well together for the strengthening of international rules.