November 1, 2015

Japan's Submarine Sales Advantage, 2 + 2 Talks With Australia

Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left), Defence Minister Gen Nakatani (center), and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) (Photo courtesy gettyimages on Asahi Shimbun

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with the women in his Ministry. Defence Minister Marise Payne (front row, left), Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (front row, between Turnbull and Kelly O'Dwyer's baby :) (Photo courtesy Reuters)

Japan and Australia sharing the same region gives Japan an important advantage over the French and German competition for the Future Australian submarine sale. The annual "2 + 2" talks between Japan and Australia cement the ongoing defence relationship (see Article below).

The next 2 + 2 talks may next occur in late November 2015. This meeting time may be favourable for Japan, when Japan, Germany and France put in their final bids by the November 30, 2015 deadline.

Japan and Australian have had a friendly high level regional relationship (political, economic, security etc) since 1951.

France has referred to Australia's alliance relations with France in World War One as part of its sales campaign. "It is more than 100 years since the Anzac legend was forged in places like Fromelles and the Somme in France, and today Australia and France remain the strongest of allies,” it says.“Our shared military heritage provides a solid foundation for a new endeavour to further strengthen this time honoured relationship.”

But World War One was a century ago. Australia has had much more recent frosty relations with France over: French nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific from 1966 to 1996. A related incident was France's DGSE spy organisation in 1985 blowing up a peace ship, Rainbow Warrior in the main harbour of Australia's closest ally, New Zealand. Australia's relations with France have been correct rather than warm - perhaps part of the age old Anglos versus France thing. Maybe a high risk arms deal will change all that.

Australia, of course, had a combative relationship with Germany in World Wars One and Two, but things have improved.


"S" drew my attention to the following issue. 

“Japan, Australia planning ‘two-plus-two’ defence talks for late November

[From Kyodo, Japan] -

Japan and Australia are making final arrangements to hold a meeting of their defence and foreign ministers, possibly in late November, with technological cooperation on submarines to be high on the agenda, according to a Japanese source.

At the “two-plus-two” meeting to be held in Australia, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Gen Nakatani [with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne] will also seek to build trust with the new Australian government led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that took power in September.

The previous prime minister, Tony Abbott, was known for having close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

These will be the sixth talks of their kind. The last meeting was held in June 2014 in Tokyo.

Australia will be represented by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne.

The talks could be pushed back to December if circumstances do not allow, the government source said Sunday.

Japan is fiercely competing with France and Germany to be selected by Australia as a partner to develop submarines for its navy, with each country urged to submit proposals required for the competitive evaluation process by the end of November.

Australian officials have called it the “largest defence procurement program in its history.”

Japan is crafting a proposal based on the Maritime Self-Defence Force’s Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines, which are considered highly advanced.

The Japanese and Australian ministers are also likely to discuss ways to promote security cooperation and how to deal with China’s growing maritime assertiveness.

Turnbull, who won a sudden party leadership challenge, is labeled by Chinese media as pro-China.

Final arrangements are meanwhile being made for Turnbull to visit Japan in December.


Political and security relationship

Australia and Japan have a strong and broad-ranging security partnership. Australia and Japan have taken practical steps to address regional and global strategic challenges of mutual concern. The United States is both Australia's and Japan's most important strategic ally, and the three countries progress cooperation on strategic issues through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue mechanism. A trilateral leaders’ meeting was held in the margins of the Brisbane G20 Summit in November 2014. Australia and Japan consult regularly on regional security issues, such as North Korea's nuclear activities. The growing Australia-Japan defence relationship includes regular bilateral and trilateral exercises with the United States.
The 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (JDSC) provides a foundation for wide-ranging cooperation on security issues between Australia and Japan, including in law enforcement; border security; counter-terrorism; disarmament and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; maritime and aviation security; peace operations and humanitarian relief operations (the two countries have worked closely together in Iraq, East Timor, Pakistan and elsewhere).
The JDSC also established the regular '2+2' talks between foreign and defence ministers. At the fifth 2+2 talks in Tokyo on 11 June 2014, Ministers agreed on recommendations to enhance security and defence cooperation, including the conclusion of negotiations on a defence technology and equipment agreement. Prime Minister Abbott and Prime Minister Abe endorsed these recommendations during Prime Minister Abe’s July 2014 visit to Australia. Previous outcomes of the 2+2 process include an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreementon defence logistics cooperation, which entered into force on 31 January 2013, and an Information Security Agreement on the sharing of classified information, which entered into force in March 2013.
Australian Prime Minister Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Abe held summit meetings in Tokyo on 7 April 2014 and in Canberra on 8 July 2014. The two leaders decided to elevate the security and defence relationship to a ‘Special Strategic Partnership’. The two leaders also decided to establish a bilateral cyber-policy dialogue to address common cyber threats and discuss ways to strengthen regional and international cooperation…more."



Anonymous said...

The Rainbow Warrior AND the Southern Raider [now that's a yarn for a brave and patient investigative journo] sunk by Chirac near Kerguelen shortly after the first outrage, proving that State terrorism was then bipartisan. But it's all sunshine now as we want them to remain in the Indian Ocean and help us [Australia] with our Antarctic claims.

Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
You may want to get a look at this article from the Diplomat Magazine

Australia’s Submarines: The US Option
Why leasing U.S. boats might be Canberra’s best option.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [Nov 1, 7:49PM]

I was unaware of the fate of the Southern Raider during the golden age of French-Australian relations.

"By Ben Hills, Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 1987

The Last Voyage Of The Southern Raider, And How Two Pirates Took French Leave

Two convicted Australian fishing pirates have escaped from the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, and now threaten to provoke another diplomatic clash between Australia and France.

The pair had been held on the island since last October, when a French naval patrol-boat opened fire on their 2,500-tonne trawler Southern Raider, sinking the boat and forcing the crew of 23 to take to the lifeboats..."

If the future submarine turns out like the Collins this may actually worsen relations between Australia and any of the three winning countries rather than improving them.

France won't leave the Indian Ocean over an arms deal with Australia.

How is France helping Australia with our Antarctic claims?



Peter Coates said...

Thanks Nicky

Yes I read that article.



Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

I find it interesting that politically Japan and Australia have reversed over the last 15 years. It used to be Japan had a new PM, and thus new ministers, every 6-18 months, but with Koizumi and now Abe, they have stabilised. Now it's Australia, which changes PM's frequently. Both countries change defense ministers very often though.

What sort of effect do you think this will have on the selection process for Australia's subs?


Anonymous said...

Japan may be the more important ally strategically, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Australian armed forces - and the RAN in particular - have closer day-to-day working relationships with the French.

Being the two main powers in the South Pacific and South Indian Ocean, and key allies of the USN in the Persian Gulf, does things like that.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Adrian

The high turnover of Australia Defence Ministers (partly caused by the high PM turnover) may slow the submarine selection process because each new Defence Minister needs to master their submarine brief and their highly political/financial/technical portfolio generally. However such an expensive and complex selection decision deserves lengthy, conserted consideration by Australia's military-industrial-political complex - so delay is not automatically a problem.

If I were running things delay until Australia decided on a 2,000 ton (surfaced) submarine already seen in the Dolphin 2 and the Type 218SG being built for Singapore would be preferable. These would be adequate long range subs at far less cost than the 4,000 ton "orphan" subs we are buying into.



Peter Coates said...


Indeed France has some small island groups in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia has also participated with France in the Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syrian theatres.

However Australia may eventually have overlapping patrol areas with Japanese submarines especially as the South China Sea situation hots up. Having a Japanese built submarine promotes interoperability.

Australia needs to anticipate also eventually serving alongside a Japan much more active in trouble spots - including the Middle East.

To assess interoperability between Australian and French subs it would be interesting to know if Rubis SSNs regularly visit the Indian and Pacific Oceans.



Anonymous said...

Rubis SSNs do indeed deploy to the Indian Ocean about 1x a year. This typically coincides with deployments of the carrier Charles de Gaulle. They use the submarine base in Fujairah UAE for crew swaps and logistics, same as Royal Navy SSNs. Deployments typically last up to 5 months.

Back in 2001, a Rubis SSN docked in Freemantle and exercised with two Collins class subs. She later docked in Singapore to open that up as a logistics hub. Not sure if any French subs have visited Oz or East of Singapore since.


Peter Coates said...


Thanks for the Rubis details. Yes I always suspect that flotillas/groups including a major ship like Charles de Gaulle or US carriers include an SSN or two.

I was a tourist passing through Papeete Tahiti in 1981 when the parked itself at the wharf. A mighty large ship for a small town. I remember sailors dancing on the tables of wharf side bars later that night.

Fond memories of Tahiti and quite expensive due to many French officials (involved with some matter) passing through there.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Breaking news: The Nikkei, the world's largest financial newspaper reported that Defense Minister of Japan, Gen Nakatani and Australian counterpart Marise Payne had a meeting at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur suburb in November 4th. About new submarine which Australia is planning to procurement and Japan is aiming orders, Mr. Nakatani explained that Japan put to also view production in Australia. Ms. Payne replyed that Australia was seriously considering the proposal of Japan.


Peter Coates said...

Hi S [November 4, 2015 at 11:33 PM]

This may be good news for Japan.

If there are a greater number of bilateral meetings of Australian Defence Minister Payne with the Japanese Defence Minister than Payne has with the German or French Defence Ministers - then this may be an indicator that the Japanese submarine has been chosen.

We'll see.