Japan and UK pledge to co-operate over North Korea threat

Abe and May expected to discuss possibility of further sanctions after missile launch

Britain and Japan said on Thursday they would co-operate 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, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism.

British 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 Ms May. "Japan and Britain will co-operate to counter this."

Ms 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."


Ms May toured Japan's flagship Izumo helicopter carrier for a military briefing with minister of defence Itsunori Onodera before attending the national security meeting.

Ms May and Mr Abe will agree on a joint declaration on security co-operation, 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.

International condemnation

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, Ms May’s office said.

Ms 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 Ms 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 to 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 [UN] security council resolutions' demand to advance dialogue, and stubbornly emphasise pressure and sanctions," she told a daily news briefing.


Apart from security, Ms May's trip has focused 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 Ms May and Mr Abe addressed a delegation of British business leaders and senior representatives of major Japanese investors in Britain such as carmakers Nissan, Toyota and conglomerate Hitachi.

Mr Abe told the gathering that Ms May had assured him Britain’s negotiations on leaving the European Union would be transparent. “The UK’s departure from the European Union has to be successful,” Mr Abe said.

Ms 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.