Rishi Sunak’s signing of the evocatively named Hiroshima Accord represents the insertion of a further piece into the military and geopolitical mosaic Britain has successfully been constructing in the Indo-Pacific region. The closing of this deal with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday meant that Sunak had a significant achievement under his belt even before he joined other world leaders at the G7 summit.

The Hiroshima Accord, important in itself, should be seen within the context of complementary treaties such as the Aukus pact and the UK’s recent adherence to the CPTPP. This latest accord, though primarily a defence agreement, has trade and electronic security aspects that show Britain is decisively on the front foot in the Indo-Pacific theatre.

The treaty signed between Britain and Japan at Hiroshima embraces defence, trade, cyber and scientific cooperation. Britain has pledged to double the number of troops it commits to joint military exercises with Japan and it is a further signal to Beijing that any aggression against Taiwan would be resisted. But it also makes provision for a worst-case scenario – if an irredentist China were to overrun the island – by addressing the crucial question of supply chain security in semiconductors.

Semiconductors are essential components of an incredible number of technical appliances, from washing machines to missile defence systems. The Covid pandemic demonstrated how drastically a shortage in the supply of semiconductor chips could stall Western economies and Taiwan accounts for the manufacture of more than 60 per cent of the global supply and 90 per cent of the most advanced. Any threat from China to that crucial technological lifeline must be countered and the Hiroshima Accord is Britain’s answer.

By committing to joint R&D programmes in semiconductors, each country playing to its own strengths (in Britain’s case, chip design and core intellectual property), the two allies can help to lessen dependence on Taiwan and the supply chain vulnerability it represents. The question arises: would the gradual diminution of that dependence cause a corresponding reduction in the West’s determination to defend Taiwan? Not within current strategic thinking.

Britain learned in 1940 that the crucial principle is to defeat an invader before he can secure a beachhead, hence the Battle of Britain and the eventual cancellation of Hitler’s Operation Sealion. If China were allowed to cross the Taiwan Straits and occupy by brute force a democratic state, then Japan would be next on the hit list of a triumphant and hegemonial China. The soundest strategy is to halt aggression at stage one.

It is in that context that the Aukus pact should be seen. A key feature of that agreement is that the United States (but not France) is firmly on board. The minimum figure of eight nuclear submarines to be built for Australia, with the attendant job creation and security dividend, is a win/win situation for Britain. The deal builds upon the existing Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement, adding military hardware to it, with Britain contributing the design of the hull and major systems (creating what the Ministry of Defence estimates will amount to 7,000 extra jobs for Barrow-in-Furness) and America leading on design of the weapons systems.

Of course, this new Australian nuclear submarine fleet will not launch much before 2040, so it cannot be factored into the present balance of firepower between the West and China, but its real importance is that it demonstrates the long-term commitment of Britain and its allies to security in the South China Sea.

For Britain, there is also a synergy between these defence commitments in the Indo-Pacific region and its recent joining of the awkwardly named Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), whose membership already included Australia and Japan. The member states of the CPTPP account for 13.4 per cent of global GDP and this trade deal is the first major concrete benefit of Brexit, since EU membership would have excluded Britain from a partnership which sits very comfortably with its security commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.

Britain appears to have found a role beyond NATO, but perfectly compatible with NATO membership, which returns it to geopolitical significance beyond the European theatre of defence and trade. This constructive and active role is a concrete refutation of the claim by Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office and head of the diplomatic service from 2015 to 2020, in an interview in the New Statesman (where else?), that it’s “the end of the game for Britain”.

Lord McDonald of Salford, to give him his full pomp, also warned that Britain must not “make an enemy” of China. The extravagant negativism of his perception of a country that is a nuclear power, the fifth largest economy in the world and a permanent member of the UN Security Council is instructive, as regards the spirit of “managed decline” that has permeated the FCO for too many years. A Western democracy cannot “make an enemy” of China: it is, by its mere existence and political system, regarded as a hostile entity by the combined Marxist and expansionist ideology that holds unchallengeable sway in Beijing.

Such counsels smack of the philosophy of appeasement that, in the 1930s, condemned Britain to meet Nazi aggression largely unarmed. Of course we no longer rule a vast empire, but we are still equipped – and morally obliged – to play a leading part in securing the best possible geopolitical outcomes globally and maintaining our national security, as we are now doing.

The United Kingdom has always been a sea power and our recent Pacific outreach is a good fit with that traditional role. The underlying reality is that containing China is the new Great Game, as the effort to keep Russia out of India was in the 19th century.

Pivotal to the geopolitical outcomes of the next decade is how relations between China and Russia will develop. Recent events have done little to enhance Xi Jinping’s enthusiasm for his Russian ally. Earlier this month, a Russian KH-47M2 Kinzhal “Dagger” hypersonic missile was reported to have been shot down by Ukraine, presumably by a US Patriot missile defence system. If that were true, excited defence analysts pointed out, then Putin’s much-vaunted missile was not invulnerable after all. But the fog of war made positive confirmation doubtful.

Doubt was dispelled, however, last Monday night when six of those missiles were shot down over Kiev by the Patriot system. (“To lose one missile may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose seven looks like carelessness…”) If there is concern in Moscow, it may be echoed in Beijing. Last November, at the Zhuhai air show, a Chinese bomber was sighted, armed with two missiles very similar to the Kinzhal. Since Taiwan already has Patriot systems deployed, that may furnish grounds for reflection by Xi.

Inevitably, the chief burden of containing China will devolve upon the United States. This week, the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J Austin III, announced that this year’s budget request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) would be 40 per cent higher than last year. He described China as “our only competitor, with both the intent and increasingly the capacity to reshape the international system to suit its autocratic preferences”.

With $9.1bn appropriated to the PDI and the three US departments of Defense, State and Commerce increasingly working in step to keep China in check, America is sending more than a signal to Beijing. In harmony with Britain’s Hiroshima Accord, America is planning to deploy its 12th Marine Littoral Regiment to Japan. Washington is also pursuing “new force posture initiatives” with Australia and expanding security cooperation with South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and India, as well as providing additional security assistance to Taiwan, funded by the Presidential drawdown authority conferred by Congress last year.

Add to that enhanced US ties with ASEAN and the Quad, and it is evident that Britain’s recent security initiatives fit cleanly into an overall and coherent Western strategy to contain China. Since there can be little doubt that this re-energised containment of potential aggression was partly inspired by the spectacle of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Xi Jinping may privately be cursing Vladimir Putin’s ill-prepared adventure as a deterrent to his own ambitions in Taiwan.

Indeed, if he were to hold back, at least in the medium term, and Russia were to suffer a humiliating defeat, might Xi be tempted to launch some kind of “police” exercise to control “unrest” in Siberia, or some other eastern region of Putin’s fissiparous empire that he also covets?

As this fast-moving geopolitical kaleidoscope demonstrates, there is much material for discussion at Reaction’s London Defence Conference next week, at King’s College, London.

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