UK and Japan agree defence deal as London welcomes PM Kishida

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UK and Japan leaders Boris Johnson and Fumio Kishida agreed to deepen defence ties during talks in London on Thursday where they also snacked on Fukushima popcorn to celebrate an easing of trade restrictions.

Kishida was welcomed by a Royal Air Force flypast over central London and inspected a ceremonial guard of honour in red tunics and bearskin hats to mark his first official visit to the UK as prime minister.

The pair -- both G7 leaders -- agreed in principle to work more closely militarily in the Indo-Pacific, while the UK said it would soon lift the remaining restrictions on some food products in place since the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

"The Prime Minister praised the new in principle Reciprocal Access Agreement...and said it was yet another symbol of the deepening relationship between the UK and Japan," Johnson's Downing Street office said in a press release.

The agreement will allow Japanese and British forces to deploy together to carry out training and joint exercises in the Indo-Pacific, in what the UK government says is the first deal of its type with a European country.

The two countries already enjoy deep security ties, and Tokyo's ambassador to Australia, Yamagami Shingo, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he hoped plans for Japan to join the Five Eyes intelligence alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, would "become reality in the near future".

The UK, Australia and the United States last September announced a new military alliance -- AUKUS -- to counter a rising China in the Indo-Pacific region.

London, shorn of its European obligations now that it is no longer a member of the EU, is increasingly looking to the region for post-Brexit trade opportunities.

The UK last February applied for membership of the 11-nation Asia-Pacific free trade bloc, and in October 2020 signed a free trade deal with Japan.

- Economic links -

"Speaking about the strong trading relationship between the UK and Japan, the Prime Minister welcomed Japanese investment across the UK, and said he had named Greg Clark MP as the UK's new Trade Envoy to Japan to further strengthen economic links," said Downing Street.

"The Prime Minister said he was pleased Great Britain would soon lift the remaining restrictions on Fukushima food products and both leaders enjoyed popcorn from the region during the meeting," it added.

The Food Standards Agency in December last year said scientists said removing the Fukushima restrictions on foods such as some fish, wild mushrooms and foraged vegetables would have a "negligible increase" in radiation risk to UK consumers.

Thursday's talks also focused on the war in Ukraine, where "both leaders agreed that Russia's barbaric invasion marked the end of the post-Cold War period and had major implications for wider international stability".

Russia on Wednesday banned entry to several dozen Japanese officials, including Kishida, after it joined international sanctions against the Kremlin.

Johnson and Kishida -- both former foreign ministers -- also discussed Asia's transition to green energy in a bid to wean the continent off Russian oil and gas.

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