TOKYO – Britain and Japan said on Thursday they would cooperate in countering the threat posed by North Korea, two days after it fired a missile over northern Japan, and will pledge closer ties in defence, cyber security and counter-terrorism.
Prime Minister Theresa May, looking to strengthen relations with one of her closest allies ahead of Brexit, is visiting Japan as it responds to an increasing military threat posed by North Korea.
“North Korea’s reckless action is a threat” to Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his National Security Council alongside May. “Japan and Britain will cooperate to counter this.”
May added: “Against a backdrop of a more uncertain world, I want you all to know that Japan can count on the United Kingdom as a dependable and like-minded partner.”
May toured Japan’s flagship Izumo helicopter carrier for a military briefing with Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera before attending the national security meeting.
May and Abe will agree on a joint declaration on security cooperation, including plans for British soldiers to take part in military exercises on Japanese soil and for collaboration to address the threat of cyber and militant attacks when Japan hosts the Olympics in 2020.
North Korea is expected to feature heavily in the talks after it launched a ballistic missile on Tuesday that passed over Japanese territory, prompting international condemnation.
The two leaders are expected to discuss the possibility of further sanctions on North Korea, May’s office said. May called on China to put more pressure on North Korea after she arrived in Japan on Wednesday.
The Global Times, a publication of the official People’s Daily of China’s ruling Communist Party, criticised May’s comment.
“Beijing does not need London to teach it how to deal with North Korea,” the newspaper said.
Asked about the United States, Japan and Britain looking ti impose new sanctions on North Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the situation could only be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
“We think it is regrettable that some countries selectively overlook the relevant Security Council resolutions’ demand to advance dialogue, and stubbornly emphasise pressure and sanctions,” she told a daily news briefing.
Apart from security, May’s trip has focussed on trade and investment. She is keen to convince nervy investors that Britain’s exit from the European Union will not make it a less attractive business partner.
Both May and Abe addressed a delegation of British business leaders, and senior representatives from major Japanese investors in Britain, such as carmakers Nissan, Toyota and conglomerate Hitachi.
Abe told the gathering that May had assured him Britain’s negotiations on leaving the European Union would be transparent.
“The U.K.’s departure from the European Union has to be successful,” Abe said.
May said Japanese investment after Britain’s vote to leave the EU was a vote of confidence and she pledged to build close trade ties with Japan.
“I very much welcome the commitment from Japanese companies such as Nissan, Toyota, Softbank and Hitachi,” May said.
“I am determined that we will seize the opportunity to become an ever more outward-looking global Britain, deepening our trade relations with old friends and new allies.”
During a two-hour train ride between Kyoto and Tokyo late on Wednesday, the two leaders discussed Brexit, with May talking Abe through the details of a series of papers published in recent weeks setting out her negotiating position.
Formal discussions are scheduled for later on Thursday, after which the leaders will hold a news conference.
May said on Wednesday Japan’s upcoming trade deal with the EU could offer a template for a future Japan-Britain trade agreement, the latest attempt to show investors that Brexit will not lead to an overnight change in business conditions.
Japan has been unusually open about its concerns over Brexit, worrying that 40 billion pounds ($51.68 billion) of Japanese investment in the British economy could suffer if trading conditions change abruptly when Britain leaves the bloc.