Japan, Australia, US Leaders Envision Powerful Defense Research Goals



Japan, the US and Australia are only one signature away from a research collaboration aimed at technology advancement in the defense field. Defense research and development is about to receive a trilateral stewardship of defense capabilities to counter threats from China and Russia. With strong research objectives, the trio will aim at devising powerful defense technology especially in air and missile defense, autonomous systems and maritime security.

To be held in Hawaii, the US Indo-Pacific Command's Change of Command Ceremony will invite Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles, Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to join the ceremony that could mark the formation of a powerful defense force.

The deal will contain improved exchange of knowledge on research, development and testing as well as equipment standardization. The defense ministers will give their word on their agenda on ‘Pillar Two’ of the agreement, which promises advancing the fields of quantum computing, cyber technology, submarine technology, hypersonic technology, and artificial intelligence together.

The trio is already studying unmanned aerial vehicles connected to fighter jets. The latest proposed agreement is said to expand bilateral cooperation efforts in innovative technology to a trilateral level.

Most importantly, Tokyo is believed to be pondering about increasing defense production as a crucial national security pillar, Pillar II represents the group's potential advantages in utilizing Japan's robust industrial and technological capabilities.

Why Japan?

Japan is said to be the first country considered for Pillar II, way before allies namely Canada and New Zealand —two more members of the "Five Eyes" intelligence partnership that also includes the US, the UK, and Australia, were even thought of. The deal will look into the strong points of Japan including its strong bilateral defense ties with AUKUS nations.

But Japan Also Has Stewardship in its Technical Capacities

The Pillar II agreements also consider a nation’s stance in technological innovation, industrial prowess, capacity to sufficiently protect sensitive data and information, and influence on fostering stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific area. However, the idea of electing Japan is said to be beyond these particular considerations.

Recently, Tokyo shined in the limelight by taking huge leaps in bolstering defense cooperation with three AUKUS nations. These include joint military exercises, agreements on force posture, industrial integration, and defense technology projects pertaining to unmanned systems, next-generation air combat capabilities, counterhypersonics, and defense technology.

Besides, Tokyo has already proven that it firmly stands with Washington and forges partnerships in the face of what it perceives as an ‘increasingly severe’ global security environment, thanks in part to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's willingness to involve Japan in an increasing number of U.S.-led regional security constructs.

The Supposed Discussion to be Held by the Trio

AUKUS with Japan’s leaders, including other potential partners are expected to discuss about identifying specific areas that they can gain from and contribute to, as well. The main agenda on the table is believed to be meeting immediate military needs by offering potentially transformative capabilities on shorter schedules.

However, the degree of the collaboration expands beyond military goals. 

It is said to include agreements made on matters like intellectual property, sharing of classified information, and licensing for defense export control.


Although it is too soon to predict the consequences of Japan's involvement, Macquarie University scholar Ryosuke Hanada called efforts to include the nation in Pillar II a ‘natural strategic choice.’

Challenges for Japan

Tokyo is believed to still face hurdles, but AUKUS nations have got its back on tightening up its  cybersecurity measures and increasing the strength of its cyberdefenses.

Kurt Campbell, the deputy secretary of state for the United States and one of the main designers of the White House's Indo-Pacific policy, was the most recent official to highlight this.

Fortunately, Tokyo has already made strong progress in this direction. By adding some 4,000 more cyber-specialists to the Self-Defense Forces and presenting a bill in the parliament to create a new ‘security clearance’ system, the government has promised to strengthen its cyber-defenses.

But Japan will still have a difficult task ahead of it even with these steps. Hanada pointed out that Japan also needs more robust anti-espionage laws and agencies. At the same time, the country's regulations on the sale of weapons to foreign nations remain stringent, requiring Cabinet clearance for any transfer of goods created in the United States to other nations.

That's not all, though. AUKUS essentially establishes two tiers for defense export controls: one tier for the member nations and another for prospective partners, such as Japan.

South Korea Leaders Also Show Interest in Joining the AUKUS Team

Defence Minister Shin Won-sik announced on May 1 that South Korea had held discussions regarding becoming a part of the US, UK, and Australia's Aukus defense pact, just weeks after the agreement stated it would consider including Japan.

Along with Canada, New Zealand, and Japan, South Korea has long been considered a possible Pillar 2 partner due to its strong ties to the US and globally renowned defense sector.

At a press conference following a meeting between Australia and South Korea's foreign and defense ministers in Melbourne, Mr. Shin stated that South Korea might contribute to that second stage with its defense, science, and technical capabilities.

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