UK Strategy in Asia: some starting principles

The Prime Minister’s visit to Japan offers a useful starting point for a new discussion on what the UK’s strategy in Asia should be. That it coincided with North Korea’s latest missile launch was a graphic illustration of how trade and security are umbilically connected in the Asia Pacific – and a curtain raiser on the type of dilemmas that the UK is likely to face as it develops its Asia policy.

The good news is that the UK’s national interest chimes with that of its allies. The alliances that Britain has already – defensive, commercial, bi-lateral and multi-lateral – are its best assets in the region. They are realpolitik-plus: that is, they are not only built around mercantilist self-interest but shared approaches to trade, open markets, international security and the preservation of the global commons. The first priority of UK strategy in Asia must be to ensure that these alliances are maintained and, where possible, bolstered – particularly in South and Southeast Asia.

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