Five Eyes: Multinational intelligence network explained
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It follows comments by New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, backed by left wing PM Jacinda Arden, that the country’s policies towards China should not be defined by the alliance. The group of five countries – US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – are not bound by any official treaty but, since 1951, have nevertheless evolved into an unparalleled intelligence sharing club. New Zealand’s geography makes it a vital component, in terms of protecting Australia from being cut off by China and as a conduit to the Antarctic.
While it rejected Chinese firm Huawei for its 5G, the small country’s trade relationship with China is already worth almost £10bn, with experts warning that this leaves it “significantly exposed” to Chinese pressure.
Though Mahuta’s comments were directed towards the publication of joint statements on China’s policies, such as the one issued last year to protest against the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, they led critics last week to dub Wellington the ‘weak link” to Five Eyes, with the UK backing calls to allow Japan to pierce the Anglo-sphere as a “sixth eye”.
But these calls were dubbed premature last night.
“The prospect of Japan becoming a ‘6th eye’ has long been on the cards though serious impediments remain” said China expert John Hemmings, an associate fellow with the Council on Geostrategy think tank.
“Japan must reform the operation of its intelligence services in order to reach the standards of intelligence-sharing which Five Eyes members have long taken for granted. Under PM Abe it has begun to move in the right direction, but it remains a highly charged political issue domestically, stemming in part from the role of the military police, the Kampeitai, during the Second World War.
“However it is definitely a space to watch.”
But intelligence expert Dr Paul Maddrell, of Loughborough University, said formal membership by Japan would not be needed.
“The point of Five Eyes is that it enables the US to cover the world. The UK takes Europe and the USSR or Russia, Canada does Northern Russia while Australia and New Zealand are vital for the Asia-Pacific.
“But since the Security Treaty of 1951 with Japan, the US has been able to base its own armed forces there and conduct whatever operations it deems legitimate.
“If there is a shortfall from New Zealand, the US can make up for it by increasing its efforts in Japan and even Taiwan.
“Japan may join in time, but there’s no need for it to do so now.”
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