Japan, Germany sign new agreement to deepen defense cooperation

China Military Online
Li Jiayao
2024-02-08 16:27:35

By Zi Ge

According to Japanese media reports, the Japanese and German governments recently signed the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements (ACSA) to facilitate the mutual replenishment of food, fuel and ammunition between the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and the Bundeswehr (the German Armed Forces). This step means smoother material and logistical support for future joint training or exercises and further strengthens the bilateral defense relationship between the two countries.

In September 2023, Tokyo announced the official launch of the ACSA with Berlin, which was essentially finalized in December of the year. And Germany became the seventh country to sign the agreement with Japan, after the US, the UK, France, Canada, Australia, and India. The agreement is just one step away from the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), which is designed to facilitate the smooth exchange of each other's military personnel. Japan had previously used the ACSA as a transition to the conclusion of the RAA with the UK and Australia.

In recent years, defense exchanges between Japan and Germany have been steadily deepening. In 2017, they reached an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology to deepen military and technological cooperation between the two countries. In 2021, they signed the "Agreement on the Security of Information" to establish a bilateral information-sharing mechanism, allowing the two sides to share necessary information for joint operations, including tactical data, cybersecurity, cryptographic information, counterterrorism information, and system integration technologies. In 2021, they held the first "2+2" meeting between foreign and defense ministers, making Germany the third European country after the UK and France to form such a meeting mechanism with Japan. Since then, Germany has repeatedly sent frigates and aircraft to Japan for joint training. In March 2023, the German defense minister visited Japan again after a gap of 16 years to discuss with his Japanese counterpart the deployment of their two armed forces in the Asia-Pacific region and joint bilateral military exercises.

The formal approval of the ACSA marks another step forward in Japan's outward-looking military strategy and also means that Germany will be able to more easily project its military forces into the Asia-Pacific region in the future.

The ACSA between Japan and Germany went from negotiation to a formal conclusion in a matter of months. Various signs indicate that the construction of the agreement was largely driven by Japan, demonstrating its plan to steadily expand overseas military interactions.

First, under the pretext of signing a defense cooperation agreement, real efforts were made to free itself from binding constraints. In recent years, with the support and acquiescence of the US, Japan has been persistently seeking partners among the US military allies and expanding the scope of its cooperation in order to increase its global military influence and further accumulate strength to get rid of the restrictions of the pacifist constitution. In addition to Germany, Japan has been pushing for closer defense cooperation with more NATO members. Japan is reportedly in talks with NATO to establish a special line for sharing sensitive intelligence.

Second, the export of weapons technology has been carried out under the pretext of improving military interoperability. Japan and Germany have signed the Agreement concerning the Defense Equipment and Technology Transfer and the Agreement on the Information Security Agreement, but they have not made any breakthroughs in arms exports and have also refrained from engaging in defense technology cooperation and joint weapons development. Germany has planned to modernize its maritime patrol aircraft by 2025, but excluded Japan's P-1 patrol aircraft from the final shortlist due to insufficient cooperation with the country. The conclusion of this agreement has deepened the military interaction between them, and the interoperability needs of military equipment related to future joint training between the two sides will provide rational support for joint research and development of technologies and weapons, and further open a pathway for Japan's arms exports to Germany.

Third, under the justification of addressing common regional threats, practical measures have been taken to manifest the "Indo-Pacific Strategy". The "Indo-Pacific Strategy" is led by the US, but since then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed the concept of a "free and open Indo-Pacific", Japan has viewed the Indo-Pacific region as an arena for geopolitical competition and actively promoted its concretization and expansion at the strategic security level, helping the US to shape a US-led alliance security pattern. Japan is individually building bilateral interactive links to draw more US allies into the battlefield, thereby integrating resources and forming an alliance.

It is analyzed that as more and more NATO members are introduced into the Asia-Pacific region by Japan, the US alliance system in Asia will be linked to that in Europe, and the potential of the Asian version of NATO will steadily increase. Japan is continuously drawing countries from outside the region into the Asia-Pacific region and inciting them to intervene in regional security affairs, which poses challenges to regional security and stability, and its potential impact deserves attention.

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