Australia and Japan agree to pursue closer military technology ties

TOKYO, June 11 Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:04am EDT

TOKYO, June 11 (Reuters) - Australia and Japan on Wednesday said they would create a framework pact to cooperate on military technology, a move that could pave the way for Japan to supply stealth submarine designs and components to Australia.

The agreement came during talks between Australian Defence Minister David Johnston, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and their Japanese counterparts Itsunori Onodera and Fumio Kishida in Tokyo.

Johnston told Reuters in an interview earlier on Wednesday that Australia wanted to bolster ties with Japan in military technology that could range from a possible submarine deal to cooperation in maintaining F-35 jet fighters that both counties are buying from Lockheed Martin Corp.

"We are taking small and determined steps down that path (of seeking the stealth designs)," Johnston said in the interview. "We are looking to push the relationship a little further along, carefully and discreetly, as to how we might better inter-operate."

The dismantling of an arms export ban by Japan in April has paved the way for the country to pursue a ground-breaking deal that would help Australia build a fleet of stealth submarines to extend its surveillance reach deep into the Indian Ocean. (Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Clarence Fernandez)