Rishi Sunak will seek to build a stronger defense in Japan amid fears of China’s rising militarization as he travels to Tokyo and Hiroshima for the G7 summit.
The prime minister was accompanied by his wife, Akshata Murty, on their first official visit since he entered No 10 for a meeting with leaders from the US, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy and the EU.
Sunak is expected to unveil the Hiroshima accord, an agreement with Japan aimed at boosting defense cooperation and improving supply chains, when he meets the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo.
A core element of their discussions is securing the supply of semiconductors – a key component of laptops, smartphones, cars, TVs and many medical devices – as most are made in Taiwan. China views Taiwan as part of its territory and conducts military exercises in the area. The US has warned a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would affect “literally every country on earth” because of its central role in semiconductor production.
Before the G7 talks on global security, the UK and Japan will sign a “semiconductor partnership” aimed at trying to boost domestic production in their countries, and have pledged to exchange skills and pursue new- developments. The UK government is preparing a £1bn semiconductor strategy aimed at strengthening resilience in the face of supply chain threats.
Sunak is also likely to have one-on-one meetings with the French president, Emmanuel Macon, and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi. However, No 10 did not expect Sunak to meet bilaterally with the American president, Joe Biden, whose trip to Asia for the summit was hampered by the uncertainty surrounding the US debt ceiling.
Washington has taken a harder line against Beijing than some European countries, with Macron saying last month that Europe should not “get caught up in crises that are not ours”.
During the four-day trip, Sunak will focus on defense and security, including bolstering international support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. He will also say that the UK is building defense ties with Japan, which is deeply concerned about China’s stance against Taiwan.
He will visit a naval base and confirm new UK-Japan defense cooperation, including doubling UK troop numbers in future joint exercises, a new cyber partnership, and reassurance to send the carrier strike group – a unit of the Royal Navy – to the Indo-Pacific in 2025. The two countries also signed an agreement to consult each other on regional and global security issues and consider in response measures.
The summit comes as former UK prime minister Liz Truss tried to intervene in foreign policy by visiting Taiwan on Wednesday, where she called on Sunak to declare Beijing a national security threat. The trip drew condemnation as a “dangerous political stunt” by the Chinese embassy in London.
A UK government spokesman said it was in Britain’s interests to “remain engaged” with China while recognizing the challenges the country presented, adding: “We have always been clear that China remains the most major state-based threat to the UK’s economic security. That is why our joint assessment refresh sets out a new approach to dealing with the challenge that China presents for the UK and the wider world.
During his trip to Japan, Sunak’s other priority is the UK economy, with plans to meet with businesses including Hitachi, Nissan and Toshiba at a reception where he will underline the billion pounds of investments to create jobs in the UK by Japanese companies. He is associated with UK businesses including Octopus Energy, one of the UK’s leading utility suppliers.
Sunak and the prime minister of Japan will present a set of science and technology programs, including a strategic relationship between Imperial College London and the University of Tokyo and collaborations on renewable energy.
Ahead of his visit to Hiroshima, the first visit to the city by a UK prime minister, Sunak said the two countries “are closely aligned on the importance of safeguarding peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and protecting of our values, including free and fair trade.”.
Sunak said: “The Hiroshima accord will see us improve cooperation between our armed forces, develop our economies and develop our world-leading scientific and technological expertise. It marks an exciting which is the next phase of the prosperous partnership between the UK and Japan.