National / Politics

Japan, Australia defense ministers pledge to boost cooperation

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and his Australian counterpart, Kevin Andrews, pledged Wednesday to boost defense ties through enhanced cooperation on a range of topics including tensions in the South China Sea and Australia’s submarine project.

Speaking to reporters after an hour-long meeting with Andrews at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Nakatani said they both shared “serious concern” on the reclamation work by China in the South China Sea and will oppose unilateral moves to change the status quo through the use of force.

“We will jointly urge relevant countries to pursue solutions in accordance with international law,” Nakatani stressed.

Both ministers also agreed to shore up cooperation on Australia’s project to replace Collins-class submarines. Tokyo decided last month to bid on the project, following a decision at the National Security Council to disclose some technical data on Japan’s submarine technology to the South Pacific country.

Andrews expressed appreciation for Japan’s cooperation for the project to develop next-generation submarines through the “competitive evaluation process,” in which Germany and France are also invited as bidders, according to a Defense Ministry official.

Australia is reportedly interested in Japan’s state-of-the-art Soryu class, touted as one of the world’s quietest long-range, non-nuclear submarines.

Tokyo and Canberra agreed last October to explore the possibility of technological cooperation on submarines. During a teleconference May 6, Andrews asked Nakatani to take part in the process.

Exporting submarines to Australia would greatly expand the scope of such exports under the new rules on the transfer of defense equipment and technology, adopted last April.

On Thursday, Andrews plans to visit the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. shipyards in Kobe, where the Soryu-class stealth submarines are manufactured.

Nakatani said he also briefed Andrews on the recently revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines and the security bills to expand the scope of overseas activities by the Self-Defense Forces, which are currently under deliberation in the Diet.