The Abbott Liberal-National Coalition government of Australia is currently in search of a replacement for the troubled Collins-class conventional submarine fleet of the Royal Australian Navy. Coincidentally, defence ties between Australia and Japan have become ever closer in recent times, particularly under the respective conservative governments of Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe. Following the signing of the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Japan Concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology last July, there is an increasing prospect that Japanese Soryu-class submarines may be exported to Australia in future. The defence technology sharing accord between Australia and Japan complements the Free Trade Agreement also recently secured between the two countries, demonstrating deepening trade and security relations. The sale of Soryu submarines to Australia would be the first major weapons systems export for Japan in its postwar history, as the Abe LDP government eases the restrictions on defence exports maintained by previous Japanese governments. These moves also complement the decision by the Abe Cabinet to reinterpret Japan’s constitution, to allow its Self Defence Forces to engage in collective self-defence actions with friendly states, which certainly includes Australia. Buying submarines from Japan would be the single most expensive military procurement in Australian history, and break an election promise to continue the manufacture of submarines in Australia. If it goes ahead, this decision will have important implications for the domestic politics of both countries, and for the strategic geopolitics of the region.
Craig Mark, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
Stream: Interdisciplinary Politics and Economics
This paper is part of the ACBPP2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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