Bipartisan Bill Pushes for US, UK, Australia Collaboration to Include Japan in Aukus Project

A bipartisan group of senior US senators unveiled legislation on May 8 aimed at fostering collaboration between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia to integrate Japan into the Aukus defense initiative.

Introduced by Republicans Mitt Romney, Bill Hagerty, and Jim Risch, along with Democrat Tim Kaine, the proposed bill mandates officials involved in the Aukus project to engage with Japan and explore avenues for its participation in advanced technology projects under Aukus’ second pillar.

Aukus, established in 2021 as a response to China’s increasing influence, primarily focuses on bolstering Australia’s defense capabilities through the provision of nuclear-powered submarines. However, discussions have arisen regarding the potential involvement of other nations in developing high-tech weaponry under the initiative’s second pillar.

The recent announcement by the partnering nations to explore collaboration with Japan on specific projects under pillar two prompted the introduction of the Coordinating Aukus Engagement with Japan Act. Senator Romney emphasized the necessity for the US to unite with allies to counter China’s heightened aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.

The proposed legislation mandates Aukus coordinators from the US departments of state and defense to liaise with the Japanese government, in consultation with counterparts from Britain and Australia. This engagement aims to delineate the scope of Japan’s involvement in advanced technology cooperation activities within the Aukus framework.

Senator Kaine underscored the significance of Aukus in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region, highlighting the bill’s role in charting a pathway for Japan’s integration into the initiative and expanding defense industrial cooperation among allied nations.

Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Risch, outlined the bill’s key provisions, emphasizing the need for the Biden administration to assess Japan’s technological capabilities, evaluate alignment with export-control systems, and engage in consultations with allied partners before extending Aukus.

However, Aukus faces challenges stemming from stringent US restrictions on technology sharing, as well as reservations about Japan’s inclusion due to cybersecurity concerns and information security vulnerabilities, as noted by officials and experts.