Japan eyes sub exports to Australia
TOKYO — Japan is expected to begin discussions with the Australian government about exporting domestically developed submarine technology, including the state-of-the-art Soryu Class submarine, which would be the first of its kind, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The two countries are likely to reach an agreement to begin discussions on the joint development of submarines at a meeting between Defense Minister Akinori Eto and his Australian counterpart, David Johnston, who will probably visit Japan later this month, according to sources.
With an eye on China's maritime expansion into the Asia-Pacific region, the government aims to step up security cooperation with Australia through the provision of advanced submarine technology, the sources said.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force's Soryu Class submarine is a diesel motor submarine with a displacement of about 3,000 tons, and is the largest conventional submarine in the world. Its technology level - the depth to which it can submerge, the cruising distance and silent movement - is world class. Five Soryu Class submarines have been deployed since 2009 at a cost of about 50 billion yen ($460 million) each.
Given China's accelerated military expansion, the Australian government had shown interest in Japanese submarine technology to help replace its aging submarines. However, many officials in the Japanese government are worried about exporting submarine technology, given the high confidentiality involved.
Even at a summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in July, they did not agree to anything beyond joint research of defense equipment and technology, including hydrodynamics.
When the government exports submarine technology, anticipated risks such as the outflow of technologies to third party countries should be avoided, based on the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which was adopted by the Cabinet in April.
If two nations jointly develop submarines that have designs and capabilities different from the original vessels, the government will not consider it a violation of the three new principles. In anticipation of the joint research, the senior officials of the ministry and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries visited Australia in August.
The government is to make a final decision on the export based on the results of upcoming talks with the Australian government.
Based on the three principles, the government has approved of exporting parts for the Patriot Advance Capability-2 — or PAC-2 — surface-to-air missile system to the United States, as well as joint research on the technology of missiles carried on an F-35, the next-generation fighter jet, with Britain.
The envisaged defense cooperation with Australia would be the third case of transferring defense equipment and technology under the new rules, but it would be "the first case for Japan to export defense equipment in such a serious manner," a senior Defense Ministry official said.
(c) 2014, The Yomiuri Shimbun.