During a visit to Japan’s Yokosuka naval base, the UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps announced the deployment of a British Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to Japan in 2025, according to a UK Government statement issued on 14 December.

The group, comprised of an aircraft carrier, her escorts and her aircraft, will work alongside the Japanese Self-Defence Forces and other partners to help defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Following the inaugural deployment in 2021 – which travelled 55,000 nautical miles – the 2025 CSG will continue to exert its presence in the Indo-Pacific in line with a ballooning government commitment to a contentious and volatile theatre.

This will build on the Royal Navy’s persistent presence in the region through HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, as well as the landmark Global Combat Air Programme collaboration with Italy and Japan, which was also discussed during the minister’s visit.

UK balances its Indo-Pacific strategy with other commitments

Meanwhile, there are concerns among the UK House of Commons Defence Committee that Britain’s contributions to its allies in the Indo-Pacific theatre have fallen to an insufficient level since the 2021 CSG deployment.

The Committee voiced this concern about the Royal Navy’s River-class patrol vessels, Tamar and Spey, which it claimed were not enough to deter China’s growing military aggression in the region.

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Baronness Annabel Goldie replied, “it would be quite wrong to diminish the effect that [the patrol vessels] have had in the region… They have actually been, in their own way, doing some very heavy lifting”.

Moreover, in an interview with Army Technology, the former Chief of Defence Staff, Lord Graham Stirrup, called into question the UK Government’s foreign policy priorities, arguing that the Arctic region – the so-called ‘High North’ – is a more concerning region “in the near-term, at least” than the Indo-Pacific.

“Such deployments send a strong deterrence message while presenting important opportunities for engagements with key partners,” Shapps affirmed. “Japan is our closest security partner in Asia and the task group’s visit to the country will only serve to strengthen our military and diplomatic ties.”

Additional reporting from Andrew Salerno-Garthwaite.