Canada exploring joining AUKUS pillar 2 amid news Japan could collaborate

Japan isn’t the only country that could be brought into the trilateral partnership’s future projects, with Justin Trudeau making a call on Canada’s role.

Australia, the US, and the UK are expected to announce they will launch formal talks to collaborate with other countries on advanced defence technologies, with a strong focus on working with Japan. “A great idea and remember it’s not to do with the nuclear submarines if I can make that obvious point, it’s to do with technology transfer and co-development,” said former Howard government minister Peter McGauran. “It does send a strong message to China, the inclusion of Japan will not be missed by China, to put it mildly,” Mr McGauran told Sky News Australia.

Former Labor adviser and Hawker Britton Director Simon Banks said Japan is a “really obvious first and natural additional partner to the trio that we currently have”. “I actually hope we think about whether there are other Western nations who can suitably join this partnership as well,” he said. “The more we work together, the better we have a good and effective defence, the less likely it is that the things that we don’t want to have happen will happen.”

Canada is exploring joining the second phase of AUKUS, as the northern American middle power considers whether it needs nuclear submarines to patrol its waters.

President Justin Trudeau made the comments on Monday, local time, as he unveiled a defence policy review, revealing he had had “excellent conversations” with Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom about collaborating with the alliance.

His revelation came as the Australian, British, and American defence ministers flagged the possibility of opening up Pillar II of AUKUS to include Japan.

While the first pillar concerns building nuclear submarines, the second part is about sharing technologies to ensure regional stability.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had held ‘excellent’ conversations with the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom about collaborating with AUKUS.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was no chance of “expanding membership”, rather AUKUS was instead looking at whether Japan or other countries could collaborate on a project-by-project base.

“What is proposed to look at Pillar II and look … at whether there would be engagement. Japan is a natural candidate for that to occur,” the Prime Minister said.

“We’ve already stepped up our defence relationship with Japan … But when we look at Pillar II, the project-by-project approach is there.

“What is not proposed is to expand the membership of AUKUS.”

Mr Albanese was asked on Tuesday morning whether AUKUS was considering bringing in any other countries, but he would not be drawn.

He instead reiterated Pillar II was about “new technologies”.

“Any relationship will be considered,” he said.

Meanwhile, China said they were “gravely concerned” about the prospect of Japan collaborating with the AUKUS partners.

Even before the potential expansion was confirmed, it sparked a warning from China that bringing in Japan risked “escalating the arms race in the Asia-Pacific to the detriment of peace and stability in the region”.

Beijing foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said China was “gravely concerned” about Japan joining the pact.

“We oppose relevant countries cobbling together exclusive groupings and stoking bloc confrontation,” she said on Monday.

“Japan needs to earnestly draw lessons from history and stay prudent on military and security issues.”

The AUKUS defence ministers said they had always intended to “engage others in Pillar II” of the alliance.

Pillar II projects are not related to the building of nuclear submarine capabilities, but concern sharing technology and a plan to jointly develop and provide military capabilities with a focus on regional security to counter China.

“Our objective remains to further the delivery of advanced military capabilities to our respective defence forces in support of regional stability and security,” the defence ministers’ joint statement said.

“We are confident that engaging like-minded partners in the work of Pillar II will only strengthen this pursuit.

“Recognising Japan’s strengths and its close bilateral defence partnerships with all three countries we are considering co-operation with Japan on AUKUS Pillar II advanced capability projects.”

Pillar I of the pact, announced by former prime minister Scott Morrison in late 2021, will deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia costing up to $368bn over the decade.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said working with Japan on technological advancement “made sense”.

“Japan has a strong foundation of trust and co-operation and is at the forefront of developing cutting-edge defence capabilities and has one of the most advanced economies in the world,” he told ABC Radio.

The statement comes ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meeting US President Joe Biden in Washington this week.

The Coalition’s foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham backed in the potential expansion, saying Japan’s technological sophistication would be an asset to AUKUS Pillar II.

“From an Australian perspective, the regional challenges that we share and face have a very common perspective, also very, very strong,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Japanese ambassador Shingo Yamagami slammed Anthony Albanese for letting the Quad security dialogue languish as the Prime Minister focuses his attention on repairing ties with Beijing.

Writing in The Australian, Mr Yamagami said the Quad – made up of Australia, Japan, the US and India and established to counter a rising China – had been weakened.

“We rarely hear the word ‘Quad’ from either Albanese or his Foreign Minister, Penny Wong,” Mr Yamagami wrote.

“Tangible progress has been so inadequate that the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s briefing ­material on its home page has not been updated since September of 2023. This will gladden hearts in Xi Jinping’s Beijing.”

He said while it was a good thing relations with Beijing were improving, Australia and its Quad partners needed to keep the pressure on China over its military build-up and growing security ties with Pacific nations.

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