Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Deployment of Britain's carrier strike group to the Indo-Pacific area shows increased Britain-Japanese defense cooperation, the British defense secretary said.
"Japan and [Britain] have forged a close defense and security partnership that is being elevated to new heights this year when the [British] Carrier Strike Group visits the Indo-Pacific," British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday after meeting with Nobuo Kishi, his Japanese counterpart.
"The most significant Royal Navy deployment in a generation demonstrates the [Britain]'s commitment to working with our partners in the region to uphold the rules-based international system and promote our shared security and prosperity," Wallace said.
The strike group of missile-carrying cruisers and destroyers, led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its fleet of F-35 fighter planes, is expected to arrive later in 2021 for military exercises.
The exercises, with Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, will come during the vessel's stay in areas off the Nansei Islands chain in southwestern Japan.
The location is near areas in which China has aggressively pressed territorial claims in those bodies of water, raising tensions with Japan and other Asian countries.
The strike group reached its initial operating capacity in January, a milestone that indicates that all its elements are fully functioning.
Kishi and Wallace previously agreed to defense cooperation and the strengthening of a policy of an open Indo-Pacific. Their meeting in London included British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Japanese Foreign Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi.
"Japan is a key security partner for the [Britain], and a close, enduring friend," commented Raab after the meetings on Wednesday. "This year will see our two nations working even more closely together with the U.K.'s Presidency of the G7 and hosting of the U.N. Climate Conference.
"The [Britain]'s Indo-Pacific tilt, including the visit of HMS Queen Elizabeth to the region, demonstrates our shared priorities and common strategic interests from maritime security to climate change and free trade," Raab said.