Move to bring Japan into the Five Eyes community

ARABIAN SEA (Nov. 17, 2020) Ships from the Indian navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), the Royal Australian navy and the U.S. Navy sail in formation, Nov. 17, 2020, in the North Arabian Sea as part of Exercise Malabar 2020. Malabar 2020 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific where the U.S. Navy has patrolled for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is currently deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jose Madrigal) Credit:  CoA / David Said

When it comes to intelligence sharing, one of the most important arrangements in the western world is the Five Eyes community.  This is made up of the US; UK; Australia; Canada and New Zealand – or to put it another way, the Anglosphere of military intelligence. It is also an alliance that increasingly cooperates on defence technology and operational matters.


Now the influential Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has recommended that Japan be made a member of this fairly exclusive and powerful club, making it the Six Eyes agreement.  One of the authors is Richard Armitage, the well-respected former Deputy Secretary of State – a Republican but who has excellent connections not only with the Democrats but the entire Washington foreign policy establishment.  The other author is Joseph S Nye, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Bill Clinton.


Titled the US-Japan Alliance in 2020 – subtitled An Equal Alliance with a Global Agenda – it makes the case that there is only one country trying to destabilise the existing order in the Asia-Pacific: China.  The timing of the release of the study is not coincidental – it is designed to have maximum impact on the incoming Biden administration that will be looking for some positive ways of breaking with the chaos and uncertainty of the Trump years while at the same reassuring traditional friends and allies.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 29, 2020) The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Akizuki-class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki (DD 118) transits the Philippine Sea during Keen Sword 21. Keen Sword is an example of the strength of the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the foundation of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 60 years. The relationships built and maintained during these events are critical to our shared capability to respond to contingencies at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga) Credit:  CoA / David Said

The report points out that another relatively recent alliance – the “Quad” of the US, Japan, India and Australia – already has significant overlap with Five Eyes participants and is also an important framework agreement to push back against Chinese expansion.  A manifestation of this was the recently concluded MALABAR naval exercise that brought all four countries together.  In addition, the US, Japan and Australia now regularly participate in the tri-nation Cope North series of exercises centred on Guam.


Another beneficiary of the report is Taiwan.  It urges both the US and Japan to strengthen links with that country, pointing out that while Washington has given a formal security guarantee, Japan has not – probably because of legal and constitutional issues as well as concerns about provoking Beijing.  However, the mood among several countries is hardening – tiptoeing around China’s well-known sensitivities has not lessened that country’s destabilising activities, it has arguably made them worse.


Japan has now increased its defence budget for the fifth year in a row, mainly because of China – though nuclear tipped North Korean missiles are also a worry.  If Japan does become the Sixth Eye – and the only non-English speaking, non Anglo-Saxon country to become a member – it will strengthen security arrangements in North Asia.  The hope is that eventually the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will realise the more that they bluster and threaten their neighbours, the stronger the alliances to protect countries from aggression will become.  It is almost like one of the laws of physics.


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