TOKYO, June 6 Australian Defence Minister David
Johnston will tour a Japanese stealth submarine when he visits
Tokyo next week, his Japanese counterpart said on Friday, ahead
of talks that could cement an agreement to cooperate in arms
"We are planning to show Minister Johnston various military
equipment including submarines," Itsunori Onodera told a news
conference. "We want to build a more cooperative relationship
Johnston will be the first foreign defence minister to tour
the highly sensitive craft, a ministry spokesman said.
Johnston and Onodera will discuss cooperation next Wednesday
in meetings that will include both foreign ministers.
The talks could yield an agreement similar to a deal struck
between Japan and Britain last year that created a legal
framework for closer cooperation on defence and security,
Japanese officials close to the talks said.
Such a framework could pave the way for a pact for Japan to
supply submarine technology and designs to Australia.
The meeting follows moves by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's
government in April to ease decades-old curbs on military
exports. This spurred officials in Japan and Australia to
accelerate discussions, sources in both countries have said.
An agreement could give Australia access to technology
developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki
Heavy Industries to help in the planned building of a
$37 billion fleet of stealth submarines to extend Canberra's
maritime reach deep into the Indian Ocean.
Japan in return would secure closer security ties with
Australia as Abe seeks stronger links with friendly Asia-Pacific
nations to counter China's military buildup.
(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo in Tokyo; Writing by Tim Kelly;
Editing by Ron Popeski)