TOKYO, June 3 (Reuters) - Japan’s defence minister said on Tuesday he wants to meet his Australian counterpart this month to push for agreement to jointly develop military technology, part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive for a more robust military.
Tokyo in March ended a decades-old ban on military exports allowing such a deal to go ahead. In doing so Japan, which wants to counter China’s rapid military buildup, seeks closer security ties with Australia, in addition to Tokyo’s traditional ally the United States.
“I would like to push along discussion with Australia on agreeing a framework to cooperate in defence equipment and technology,” Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera told a regular news conference.
Officials in Japan and Australia are eager to accelerate talks that may lead to an unprecedented deal for Japan to supply Australia with submarine stealth technology or even fully engineered vessels, sources in both countries told Reuters last month.
Onodera is to meet Australian Defence Minister David Johnston along with the foreign ministers from both countries in Tokyo this month, although a date for the talks has yet to be fixed.
A deal could give Australia access to technology developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries that it needs to build a $37 billion fleet of as many as 12 stealth submarines to replace its Collins-class vessels, extending its maritime reach deep into the Indian Ocean. (Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by William Mallard and Jeremy Laurence)