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As tensions with China continue to grow, Japan is making moves to join the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance. This week, Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami, told The Sydney Morning Herald he was “optimistic” about his country coming on board.[I] would like to see this idea become reality in the near future.
This comes as New Zealand voices its concerns over using the Five Eyes process to pressure China.
What is this spy alliance? And what are the benefits and risks to bringing Japan on board?
What is the Five Eyes?
Beginning as an intelligence exchange agreement between the United States and United Kingdom in 1943, it formally became the UKUSA Agreement in 1946. The agreement then extended to Canada in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956.
This long-running collaboration has been particularly useful for sharing signals intelligence, or intelligence gathered from communications and information systems. The group’s focus has shifted over time, from targeting the USSR during the Cold War, to Islamist terrorism after the September 11 attacks in 2001, to the rising challenge from China today.
Japan’s intelligence infrastructure
There is a significant intelligence tradition in Japan. After the Meiji Restoration of the 19th century, the imperial Japanese army and navy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs developed extensive intelligence networks. These aided the rise of the Japanese empire in its wars against China, Russia and eventually the Western allies in the second world war.
After the war, Japan’s intelligence services were revamped under American supervision. Japan has since been an important base of operations for US intelligence operations in Asia, particularly by military intelligence, the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“For most of its life, the Five Eyes has been seen as one unchangeable bloc but I think it’s important to move with the times.”