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Japan, Australia discuss joint development of military technology

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Australia agreed Wednesday to cooperate on defense equipment and technology research and development, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to bolster its security capabilities amid China’s increasing military assertiveness.

The ministers, gathered at a so-called “two-plus-two” ministerial meeting in Tokyo, said marine hydrodynamics used in submarines will be the first area of the joint research.

Tokyo and Canberra plan to kick off the research on submarine technologies in fiscal 2015, according to Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

“Ministers confirmed the substantial conclusion of negotiations on an agreement for cooperation in the field of defense equipment and technology,” said a joint statement by the two sides.

“In terms of non-nuclear diesel electric submarine, the Japanese submarine is very, very good indeed,” Australian Defense Minister David Johnston said at a joint press conference following hour-long talks at the foreign ministry’s Iikura guesthouse in Tokyo.

“We are interested to carefully and sensitively seek Japanese assistance and guidance with respect to the way we should go forward in building our own submarine,” he said.

Australia is also seeking cooperation with France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K., he said.

Onodera declined to reveal details of the expected joint research, but he said it will involve technologies that can be applied to “any kind of vessels, including submarines.”

The four ministers also reaffirmed their opposition to “the use of force or coercion to unilaterally alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” apparently referring to the Chinese military’s increasing assertiveness in the area. In a joint press release issued after the meeting, they “called on parties concerned to refrain from actions that could increase tensions.”

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also attended the talks.

The meeting followed an April agreement between Abe and his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, to launch negotiations to create a framework on the joint development of defense equipment.

Japan scrapped its decades-old ban on exporting weapons on April 1, and adopted much looser guidelines on the transfer of defense equipment and technology, aiming to bolster security ties with other countries.

The “two-plus-two” meeting was the first since September 2012. Japan has similar frameworks with the U.S., France and Russia.