Thursday, March 26, 2015

Former Japanese Navy chief: Abe determined to do submarine deal with Australia

A Japanese Soryu submarine. A former Japan Navy chief says Shinzo Abe is determined to win the deal, the first transfer of military technology by Japan in 70 years.
A Japanese Soryu submarine. A former Japan Navy chief says Shinzo Abe is determined to win the deal, the first transfer of military technology by Japan in 70 years. Reuters
Simon Evans/Financial Times
26 March 2015

A former Japanese Navy chief says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is determined to win the deal to build Australia's next generation of submarines but it will be complex to get right because it is the first major transfer of military technology for Japan in 70 years.
Vice-Admiral Yoji Koda, who is still an adviser to Japan's National Security Agency, won't say directly if he thinks there is already a done deal between Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Abe for Japan to build Australia's next submarines based on Japan's Soryu model.
But he says Mr Abe is very focused on winning the deal to bring extra scale to Japan's domestic-focused defence industry and bring to life an export deal after overturning in 2014 a long-standing ban on export sales of military hardware.
"Prime Minister Abe has had a strong intent," Admiral Koda says about the will to secure the lucrative contract.
Japan has been building one submarine a year since 1956, after constructing 230 between 1905 and 1945.
Admiral Koda says there is a strong relationship between Mr Abbott and Mr Abe, and a deal also has the imprimatur of the United States government, which is keen on a "rebalancing" and strengthening of the strategic military ties in the region, and ultimately to protect Japan from China, which has been flexing its military muscle in the region.
"They're determined," Admiral Koda says of the relationship between Mr Abe and Mr Abbott, when it comes to cementing a submarine deal.
But he also warned that Mr Abe also needs to overcome opposition in his home country, where there is some disquiet among pacificists about Japan beginning military exports.
"Prime Minister Abe has to overcome several obstacles," he says.
Admiral Koda says it will be a huge leap for Japan because it will be the first deal of its type in more than 70 years, and that will bring extra complexities and potential teething problems.
"This is the first time after 70 years," he says. "Everything is new". Admiral Koda was speaking at a submarine summit in Adelaide on Thursday attended by industry experts.
There was intense speculation late last year that Mr Abbott was close to announcing a $20 billion deal where Japan would build the Australian Navy's next generation of submarines to follow the Collins Class subs.
But amid allegations of a secret deal being struck without the benefits of a rigorous investigation and a competitive tender, and divisions inside the federal government, it has since announced a "competitive evaluation" process where Germany and France have been let into the process alongside Japan.
Vice-Admiral Masao Kobayashi, who was the commander of Japan's submarine fleet from 2007 to 2009, told the summit that the Soryu's design and technology meant it would be simple for maintenance to be undertaken in Australia once they were built. This is because they able to be split up into parts without cutting into the hull.
Mr Kobayashi also says the Soryu has a proven design and has just begun using lithium ion batteries, which extended the range so that they don't need to return home frequently to reload with oxygen.

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