Britain and Japan will pledge on Thursday closer cooperation on defence, cyber security and counter-terrorism as Prime Minster Theresa May looks to strengthen relations with one of her closest allies ahead of Brexit.
Visiting her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe as Tokyo responds to the increasing military threat posed by North Korea, May toured Japan’s flagship Izumo helicopter carrier for a military briefing with Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera before attending a national security meeting.
“My visit today is a sign of the growing cooperation and partnership we have on defence matters,” May told Onodera after inspecting an honour guard at the Yokosuka naval base near Tokyo, which is also home to the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.
May and Abe will agree 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 Pyongyang 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, attacked May for her comment. “Beijing does not need London to teach it how to deal with North Korea,” it wrote.
Following the security briefing, the trip’s focus is expected to return to trade and investment, with May keen to persuade nervy investors that Britain’s exit from the European Union will not make it a less attractive business partner.
Both May and Abe will address both a travelling delegation of British business leaders, and senior representatives from major Japanese investors in the UK economy such as carmakers Nissan, Toyota and conglomerate Hitachi.
“As we leave the EU, we will work to quickly establish a new economic partnership between the UK and Japan based on the terms of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement,” May will say according to advanced extracts of her speech.
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 trade discussions are scheduled for Thursday, after which both leaders will give 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.