Research project

EU-Japan Security Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities

Principal Investigator
Professor Emil Kirchner and Professor Han Dorussen

Our project

Security threats are increasing within and outside the European Union (EU), and allies are being sought to respond.

As one of the top trading partners of the EU, Japan also supports democratic values, and is committed to pursuing international peace and stability and effective multilateralism. It shares concerns with the EU over the North Korean nuclear programme, the assertive Chinese posture in the East and South China Sea, and the conflict in Syria, together with the wider Sunni-Shiite confrontation.

As a result, the EU and Japan have decided to strengthen their strategic partnership. We examined whether the EU is able to cooperate with Japan on a number of security areas and explore why cooperation may exist in some security sectors (e.g. non-nuclear proliferation and cyber security) and not in others (e.g. regional security and climate change).

This project is jointly funded by the University of Essex and by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Research aims

Using a mapping exercise, we explored the extent to which there is alignment or disalignment in the area of EU-Japan security cooperation, the reasons for either occurrence, and the prospects for further collaborative development.

Our findings helped to:

  • enhance scholarly interest in the effectiveness of EU external security policy
  • open new research prospects for young academics
  • contribute to greater knowledge and debate in the policy-making community, like the European External Action Service (EEAS)
  • raise awareness among civil society organisations and the public in both the EU and Japan.



Publishing our findings

Following the publication of EU-Japan Security Cooperation: Trends and Prospects, edited by Professor Emil Kirchner and Professor Han Dorussen and published in the Routledge series Military, Strategic and Security Studies on 17 October 2018, there has been considerable interest from policy makers and academics as well as in the press. An article by Professor Emil Kirchner was published in The Conversation to coincide with the entry into force of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and Strategic Partnership Agreement on 1 February 2019. This piece was reprinted in the Japan Newsweek and the New Zealand Herald. Professor Han Dorussen was invited to contribute to the London Stock Exchange Business Review blog. Both editors were interviewed on the BBC World Service and Professor Emil Kirchner was also interviewed by Bulgarian National Radio in February 2019.Our findings will soon be published in an article for a leading international journal.

A row of old looking library books
Learn more about the book

As a result of this project, a book entitled EU-Japan Security Cooperation: Trends and Prospects, was published on 17 October 2018. It was edited by Professor Emil Kirchner and Professor Han Dorussen.

Visit the publisher

Project design


Ten security dimensions we considered:

  • military security
  • regional security
  • nuclear non-proliferation
  • counter-terrorism and organised crime
  • climate change and energy security
  • human security
  • civil protection
  • cyber security
  • economic security
  • migration/immigration security

These dimensions combined traditional and non-traditional security aspects.


Our method was derived from theories, concepts and methods from international relations, including realism, liberalism and constructivism, exploring reasons for security cooperation between states or international institutions and ways to assess levels of threat perceptions and degrees of cooperation. It also drew on insights from EU external relations analysis.

Methodological characteristics we adopted


The selection of manageable and meaningful dimensions of the EU-Japan security dialogue (e.g. terrorism, arms proliferation, human security), gave the research a distinct focus. Hence, rather than dealing with the general notion of EU-Japan security relations, a range of ten specific security dimensions was applied, which gave scope for the assessment of similarities or differences (success or failings) among these dimensions.

Common framework

The project adopted a common framework in the empirical investigation of the ten security sectors, and subsequent chapters, consisting of the following elements:

  • levels of threat perceptions by the EU and Japan
  • domestic response to threats by the EU and Japan
  • degree of EU-Japan bilateral cooperation
  • degree of EU-Japan multilateral cooperation

This framework was applied in a previous book - Emil J. Kirchner, Han Dorussen and Thomas Christiansen (Eds) Security Relations between China and the European Union, Cambridge University Press, 2016.


The project established assessment scales in order provide a systematic account of the levels or degrees converging or diverging positions of the EU and Japan on threat perceptions and joint cooperation with regard to the ten security dimensions.


The project involved the pairing of European and Japanese scholars.

The basis for investigating and assessing the respective ten security dimensions was relevant official documents of the EU and the Government of Japan and other relevant documents and secondary sources.


Our first workshop on Comparing Threat Perceptions and Responses between the EU and Japan was hosted and co-funded by the Japanese-German Centre Berlin.

Workshop report: comparing threat perceptions and responses between the EU and Japan. (.pdf)

Our second workshop was held at Kobe University in Japan. Discussions centred on how the EU and Japan relate to the nuclear threat by North Korea, the assertive maritime posture of China in the South China Sea, the rise of international terrorism, the threat of cyber-attacks and cyber warfare, the fall-out from Paris accord on climate change, natural disasters and pandemics, and the America First policy of President Trump.

Workshop report: EU-Japan security cooperation - challenges and opportunities. (.pdf)

Our final conference was hosted by the Royal Institute of International Affairs of Belgium and held in Brussels, in March. Findings of the research project were presented which came shortly after the agreement of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. The conference was addressed on these topics by the Japanese Ambassador to the EU and by the EU’s External Action Service Desk Officer for Japan.

Conference report: EU-Japan Security Cooperation: trends and prospects. (.pdf)

The first book launch was held on 15 November 2018 at the European Institute for Asian Studies in Brussels. A short report can be found below. A second book launch was held in Berlin at the first conference of the EAST (EU-Asia Security and Trade) project, and more are planned.

Website report EUJA book launch. (.pdf)

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Professor Emil Kirchner Academic Coordinator
University of Essex
Susan Sydenham Project Coordinator
University of Essex