Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has requested Japan to participate in procedures to become Australia's partner in a project to jointly develop next-generation submarines.
Andrews made the request in a telephone conversation with Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani who responded positively, Japan's Jiji Press news agency reported.
In their telephone conversation, Andrews was quoted as telling Nakatani that Australia hopes to study the feasibility of the two countries jointly developing a submarine, as Japan has the necessary technology, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported.
"Australia will initiate a procedure to choose a partner for the development, and asks Japan to consider joining the procedure," the minister said.
In reply, Nakatani said Japan will
consider Australia's proposal for joint submarine development, and he will consult with relevant ministries and agencies
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Japan will agree this month to give Australia classified submarine data, an unprecedented step signaling Tokyo's intent to join competitive bidding to sell Canberra a fleet of stealth subs.
The prospect of Australia buying Japanese submarines is poised to take a significant step forward with Tokyo expected to agree within weeks to hand over classified technical data on their prized Soryu Class boat.
Such a move would signal Japan's full-fledged entry into the Abbott government's "competitive evaluation process" in which Japan is pitted against Germany and France to help design and build Australia's next fleet of submarines.
In February, Australian Prime
Minister Tony Abbott said his country will team up with either Japan, France or Germany to develop next-generation submarines for Australia.
The process will take at least 10 months, after which the defence ministry will make recommendations for the government to consider.