Canada, Japan to Expand Security Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region

Canada, Japan to Expand Security Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region

Faced with a common threat from an increasingly assertive China and an unpredictable North Korea, Canada and Japan are preparing to deepen their security and defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Ottawa and Tokyo outlined six areas of bilateral cooperation during the first face-to-face meeting of Foreign Minister Marc Garneau and his Japanese counterpart Motegi Toshimitsu on the sidelines of the G7 foreign and development ministers meeting in London yesterday.

Topping the list is the strengthening of political, security and defense cooperation “to maintain and promote the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region,” said a statement from Global Affairs Canada.

Canada and Japan commit to work together “to combat unilateral actions that undermine regional stability and the rules-based international maritime order based on international law, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “the statement read: a veiled reference to China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks after reviewing the China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy fleet in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018. (Li Gang, File / Xinhua via Associated Press)

Ottawa and Tokyo also plan to deepen their cooperation in multinational efforts to strengthen the enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea – cracking down on Pyongyang’s sanctions-circumvention activities, in particular ship transfers to ship at sea.

On April 23, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan announced that Canada was extending Operation Neon to counter the evasion of North Korea’s maritime sanctions by two years. As part of the operation, Canada has sent warships and maritime surveillance aircraft to the Pacific since 2019 to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

People watch a TV showing a file image of the North Korean missile launch during a news program at Suseo Station in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Ahn Young-joon / AP)

Garneau and Toshimitsu also discussed the continued cooperation between Canada and Japan on UN peacekeeping operations, relations with China, the military coup in Myanmar, international trade, climate change and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

“The Indo-Pacific region will continue to be an engine of growth for decades to come,” Garneau said in a press release. “Today, Canada and Japan build on a strong and long-standing partnership to strengthen cooperation to advance common interests in the region and keep it free and open.

Building a New Alliance of Pacific Democracies

David Welch is a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, specializing in the Indo-Pacific region. He said the deepening of security cooperation between the two countries is a welcome step in addressing the unrealized potential of Canada-Japan relations.

Although the two countries generally have very friendly ties, relations between Ottawa and Tokyo have plenty of room to develop, Welch said.

Despite their size and population differences, Canada and Japan have a lot in common, he added. They are two high-income, highly developed, liberal democracies committed to a liberal, rules-based international order. Canada and Japan are both enthusiastic members of the G7, G20 and other innovations in governance such as the International Criminal Court, he added.

“They are middle power diplomacy practitioners,” Welch said. “And their geopolitical interests and challenges overlap almost perfectly. Both depend economically on a peaceful and stable East Asia. Both are firmly committed to non-proliferation. And both struggle to manage relations with China. and the United States. “

Canada and Japan should work towards a full security partnership as official allies, Welch argued in a recent article. Such a formal alliance would be in the interest of both countries, he added.

For Tokyo, that would be a tangible sign of full membership in a vital security community and a signal to Japan’s neighbors that it enjoys respect and reputation, Welch said.

“For Canada, this would rebalance its current portfolio of formal alliance commitments, which are wholly and increasingly anachronistically Atlanticist,” Welch wrote. “It is astounding that Canada has formal alliance obligations to Montenegro, but not to Japan – or any other Asia-Pacific country, for that matter.”

Building a “ security community ”

University of Calgary defense expert Rob Huebert said Canada needs to develop closer defense ties with all democracies in the Far East.

“We need to start talking about developing a security community in the region, similar to NATO in terms of the ability to deal with the growing Chinese threat,” Huebert said. “The only way we’ll be able to stop it in any meaningful way is with a proper alliance system – an alliance, not just cooperation.”

This alliance would include all liberal democracies in the region: the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Huebert said.

Canada and Japan have already taken active steps to strengthen military interoperability, he added. Royal Canadian Navy warships and Royal Canadian Air Force underwater fighter aircraft regularly participate in joint exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Force and other regional powers.

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