PERTH, AUSTRALIA – Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Australian counterpart David Johnston agreed Monday to expand technological cooperation on defense equipment following Japan’s relaxation of a decades-old arms embargo.
Johnston also backed the Prime Minister Shinizo Abe’s move to lift Japan’s ban on the right to collective self-defense, Onodera told reporters after the talks the coastal city of Perth.
At a summit in Tokyo earlier this month, Abe and Australian leader Tony Abbott agreed to begin negotiations on forming a framework for jointly making defense equipment.
Onodera and Johnston said the agreement might be reached in June, when the foreign and defense ministers of both countries will meet in Tokyo.
Johnston expressed an interest in Japan’s advanced submarine technology during the talks, but Onodera only said it is important to hold working-level talks because the technology is “highly confidential.”
Japan adopted looser guidelines on the transfer of defense equipment and technology on April 1 as Abe seeks to rework the country’s defense and security policies. It was Japan’s first major overhaul of the strict arms policy in nearly half a century.
The controversial issue of reinterpreting the war-renouncing Constitution to exercise the U.N. right to collective self-defense, is a top priority for Abe.
Japan is trying to bolster security ties with Australia in light of China’s growing military presence and assertiveness in the region. The two defense chiefs said they shared the view that Tokyo and Canberra would not tolerate any attempts to change the status quo by force in the Pacific and Indian oceans, in an apparent reference to China.
Onodera said Japan and Australia agreed to increase joint exercises in marine rescue and disaster relief operations with the United States, their key ally.
Japan has dispatched two P-3C aircraft to Australia’s Pearce Air Force base, near Perth, to join a massive multinational search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 jet, which vanished with 239 people on board.