Photo/IllutrationFrom left, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson examine naval artifacts at the Queen's House gallery in London on Dec. 14. (Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON--Japan and Britain on Dec. 14 agreed to jointly work on various defense projects amid uncertainties over the U.S. security commitment in East Asia and continuing concerns about China’s maritime advances.

The projects will be another step in creating a “semi-alliance” between the two island countries.

Japan, which has become uneasy about the defense strategy of the Trump administration, is seeking new security partners.

Britain is also reviewing its diplomatic and defense policies with its departure from the European Union looming in March 2019.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met with their British counterparts, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the defense secretary, in London and agreed to push forward joint research in developing missiles for fighter jets.

This will be Japan’s first joint research on missiles that does not include the United States.

The two sides also agreed that the first-ever joint training exercises between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Royal Navy would be held when British frigates are deployed to the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, the Ground SDF and the British Army will conduct joint drills in 2018.

A joint statement issued after the meeting stated that Japan and Britain would move toward “research prototyping and the launch testing” of the Joint New Air-to-Air Missile (JNAAM). The statement also said the ministers “looked forward to the early embodiment of the joint research project.”

At a joint news conference after the meeting, Onodera said: “Both Japan and Britain are technological powers having high levels of technology. There will be huge significance in deepening cooperation by mutually complementing each side.”

The statement said the two nations would work toward “elevating their global security partnership to the next level.”

Japan is hoping that Britain will deepen its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region as a nation that not only shares common values, such as freedom and the rule of law, but also maintains a military alliance with the United States.

In the background is an attempt to guard against further maritime advances by China.

For its part, Britain maintains an interest in securing freedom of navigation in Asia, where economic growth is still booming. As part of that stance, Johnson in July said that a new British aircraft carrier would be deployed to the South China Sea.

Although the joint statement did not specifically name China, it said that Japan and Britain would “work together to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

The two sides also confirmed Britain’s further commitment to security in the region through such moves as the deployment of the aircraft carrier.

(This article was written by Ryo Aibara and Kayoko Geji.)