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Aukus expansion: Japan, South Korea want in on Pillar 2 – but trust is still a sticking point

His country’s “differentiated science and technology capabilities will contribute to peace and stability”, Shin said.

Japan and South Korea could undoubtedly offer state-of-the-art technical know-how and technologies to Aukus, according to Eleanor Shiori Hughes, a non-resident fellow at Chicago-based economic research think tank EconVue.

“With their outlook on the strategic environment largely aligned with that of the Aukus countries, they have enormous potential to be major value-adds to build capacity on these cutting-edge capabilities,” said Hughes, who is also a member of the Australian Institute for International Affairs and The Japan Foundation’s Indo-Pacific Cooperation Network.

But she said major obstacles still prevented either East Asian nation or New Zealand from joining Aukus due to the “nascent” nature of the partnership.

“Members are still working towards solidifying the building blocks by which to expand collaboration on frontier technologies for both pillars,” Hughes said, adding that Tokyo would need to build greater resilience against cyberattacks before it can participate in Aukus projects.

“While there is reason for promise, Japan still needs to reconcile challenges posed by its security clearance mechanisms.”

For its part, Japan has been making moves to improve information security and prevent leaks of sensitive data with a “security clearance bill” that was approved by the cabinet in February and is currently being debated in parliament.

If passed into law, the bill would expand the use of background checks for people working with sensitive information, carrying a punishment of up to five years in prison and a hefty fine for anyone leaking information “critical to national economic security”.

This adds to