(Adds detail on submarines)
TOKYO, June 11 Australia and Japan will create a
framework pact to cooperate on military technology, the two
countries said on Wednesday, a move that could pave the way for
Japan to supply stealth submarine designs and components to
The agreement came during talks between Australian Defence
Minister David Johnston and Australian Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop and their Japanese counterparts, Itsunori Onodera and
Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo.
"Ministers confirmed the substantial conclusion of
negotiations on an agreement for cooperation in the field of
defence equipment and technology," the countries said in a joint
"We see ourselves as natural partners in many ways,"
Australia's Bishop told reporters after the meetings.
In an interview earlier on Wednesday, Johnston told Reuters
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 looking to push the relationship a little further
along, carefully and discreetly, as to how we might better
The dismantling of an arms export ban by Japan in April has
opened 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.
Onodera said a schedule had yet to be fixed for further
talks on defense technology.
Although any submarine deal is far from certain - Australia
is also looking at possible designs from Germany, France and
Sweden - and could hinge on a new security deal that could anger
China, there is a growing will among officials in Tokyo and
Canberra to forge a framework for one, sources familiar with the
talks told Reuters last month.
A deal could include hull design, going beyond discussions
last year that were limited to engine technology, the sources in
Australia's proposed fleet of diesel submarines is at the
core of the nation's maritime defence strategy.
"We must retain a submarine capability in Australia as one
of our most significant strategic deterrents," Johnston told
His government, he said, would decide next year in a new
defence white paper how many submarines it will build, possibly
fewer than the 12 proposed in 2009.
Johnston described an estimate of A$40 billion dollars for
that programme as "far too high" for Australian taxpayers to
accept, although he declined to predict how much the new fleet
of submarines would cost.
Any pact on closer industrial ties could also see Japan and
Australia cooperate in military hardware beyond submarines,
Johnston said earlier.
The talks also led Japan and Australia to "compare notes" on
Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter that both nations plan to
deploy, Johnston said, helping them sustain a programme that
sits at the heart of their air defence strategies in the next
"We are both fundamentally purchasers of U.S.,
predominantly, and some European platforms, and we share
sustainment issues and technical issues around how we evolve
those platforms to our own needs," Johnston added.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Chris Gallagher and