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I-Spy: Japan and the Five Eyes

Written by: (Contributed) on 21 October 2020


Moves by US-led regional defence and security planning to consider Japan as an additional member of the elite Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network have revealed a further escalation of Cold War diplomatic tensions taking place with China.

Japan, while historically a northern regional hub for 'US interests' and military operations, was bound by a pacifist constitution and, therefore, unable to assist their war plans. Japan's governments recently, however, re-interpreted the relevant Clause 9 of their constitution to remove constraints to their active involvement in US-led military operations.

Recent publicity surrounding Japan's involvement with the Five Eyes, therefore, should be viewed with alarm, as waves of US-led militarism sweep the region.

In early October, it was reported that the Japanese government was lobbying Australian support to join the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network. (1) Both Japan and Australia are the two hubs for 'US interests' in the region, and linked to the US with a triangular diplomatic relationship. Diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries around the two hubs appear as spokes.

Recent developments with the US losing regional influence and having to deal with the challenge of China, have seen greater responsibilities thrust upon the two hubs. (2)

The announcement from former Japanese ambassador to Australia, Sumio Kusaka, should, therefore, be viewed in that context.

The timing was also important, coming two days after Japan hosted the latest high-level diplomatic meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) where the foreign ministers of Japan, Australia and India, met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for a series of meetings which were noted as following an 'agenda … in response to China'. (3)

The Five Eyes, composed of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and NZ, grew out of the Second World War together with British Commonwealth connections. It has remained central to US-led defence and security considerations and the eyes and the ears of major West intelligence agencies for over seventy years. There has been little ambiguity with the new Japanese position; the official diplomatic media release stated Japan's involvement with intelligence-sharing would enable 'our nations … to … coordinate their policies much more effectively'. (4)

Governments in Japan, historically, while hosting large number of visiting US military personnel and bases, have been bound by a pacifist constitution foisted upon the country by the US at the end of the Second World War. Recent re-interpretations of Clause Nine, however, have seen some relaxation of the constitutional constraints and subsequent Japanese military involvement in US-led war-games and exercises. It is important to note the moves have not proved particularly popular with large sections of the Japanese people, and the whole matter has become a political manoeuvre with ruling politicians.

It is, furthermore, important to note the existing Five Eyes has a concentration of support well away, geographically, from China and other regional trouble-spots including Taiwan and the Korean peninsula. The moves have also been accompanied with a massive US boost with arms sales to Taiwan amid speculation China was actually preparing a full-scale invasion of Taiwan. (5) Statements from the US Defence Department that 'US and Taiwanese militaries need to co-ordinate planning' leave little to the imagination.  

Developments on the Korean peninsula, likewise, have caused the US serious concern with a major diplomatic stand-off between South Korea and Japan over an intelligence-sharing alliance which was only finally agreed and signed within hours of it being cancelled. The whole controversy, over war-time compensation for issues arising from the Japanese military occupation of the peninsula from 1910-45, has still not been resolved and is likely to cloud diplomacy between the two countries for the foreseeable future.

Behind the diplomatic stand-off between South Korea and Japan other factors, including US moves to consider reducing their troop presence in South Korea together with growing trade links with China, reveal declining US influence in the wider region. (6) It has not been coincidental that China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has planned his first major overseas visit since earlier this year to Seoul, for high-level diplomatic talks.

If Japan was officially admitted to the Five Eyes it would provide western intelligence agencies with close contact with China and surrounding countries for surveillance and monitoring developments, moving the country into a 'front-line' type position for US-led military planning and diplomatic hostilities with Beijing, with all which that position entails.

Such developments provide a further insight into the waves of US-led militarism sweeping a region which is increasingly being driven toward a position of 'real-war' scenarios; the US and Japan have established a defence accord whereby Japan's military are allowed to act 'when the US or countries the US forces are defending are threatened'. (7) It would appear only a matter of time until it becomes fully operational.

                                          We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Japan wants help to get in on Five Eyes,  Australian, 9 October 2020.
2.     Study: U.S. no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Paul D. Shinkman, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
3.     Pompeo calls Suga 'force for good', Australian, 7 October 2020.
4.     Canberra, Tokyo grow together, Australian, 9 October 2020.
5.     China rattles Taiwan with a simulated island invasion, Australian, 14 October 2020.
6.     Shinkman, Information Clearing House, op.cit., 22 August 2019.
7.     Japan to extend military reach beyond self-defence, The Age (Melbourne), 29 April 2015.


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