LONDON — The Royal Navy is to deploy a carrier strike group to the Indo-Pacific region as part of strengthening of its defense ties with Japan and other nations there, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Thursday on the eve of the G7 summit meeting in Hiroshima.
Confirmation of the planned deployment of one of the Royal Navy’s two 65,000-tonne behemoths came as Sunak and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, agreed May 18 what is called the Hiroshima Accord, a wide-ranging pact covering economic, defense, security and technology collaboration.
The accord is the latest in a string of moves by the British to tilt their economic and defense strategy more towards the Indo-Pacific against a background of increasing Chinese belligerence in the region.
In the last six months, the British have completed negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc, launched the UK-Japan-Italy sixth-generation combat jet program and in January signed the defense Reciprocal Access Agreement with Japan, which among other benefits will simplify procedures for joint training exercises.
The two sides also plan to increase cyber cooperation as part of the Hiroshima Accord, said a British statement.
Sunak’s visit saw the British confirm they will increase the number of troops taking part in the Vigilant Isles military exercise planned for Japan later this year.
Around 170 UK personnel will be involved, including soldiers from the 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles and 16 Air Assault Brigade.
Sunak, who visited Japanese aircraft carrier JS Izumo ahead of the G7 Summit, said the new agreement was the latest step in a flourishing partnership with Tokyo.
“The Hiroshima Accord will see us step up cooperation between our armed forces, grow our economies together and develop our world-leading science and technology expertise,” Sunak said.
Details of the new carrier deployment are not yet available other than the British saying in their statement the strike group will include naval escorts and F-35 combat jets working alongside the Japanese Self Defence Force and other navies in the region.
The deployment will be the second time a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier has deployed to the region.
In its inaugural deployment in 2021 HMS Queen Elizabeth toured the Indo-Pacific region leading a force of Royal Navy, U.S. and Dutch surface combatants and support ships.
A squadron of U.S. Marine Corp F-35B’s also deployed alongside British jets onboard the Royal Navy carrier.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.