Prime Ministers Abbott and Abe, on April 7, 2014, when they concluded a framework agreement for co-operation on defence equipment and technology (including submarine hydrodynamics). This is/was a preliminary to any Soryu sale. Abbott's political position is now threatened.
As Prime Minister Abbott - the main Australian advocate for a Soryu deal steadily weakens politically it is valuable to consider possible Japanese concerns and misgivings over a Soryu sale.
Several days ago an Anonymous commenter said [retired Admiral]"Kobayashi is not arrogant, he just does not want to sell sub tech, that’s all. Australian thinks that Japan wants to sell her subs like Germany, Sweden or France. But this idea is perfectly wrong and huge misunderstanding, Japan does not want at all. Soryu’s secret is more important and valuable than money which Australia will pay Japan."
Enlarging on possible Japanese concerns yields the following possibilities.
Unlike other western countries involved in Australia's submarine selection - Japan is the only country actually in danger of conflict - with North Korea and to a lesser extent with Russia and China. Other contenders - Germany, France and Sweden - are not at risk. For these latter three countries the submarine selection is only a commercial-trade matter - while for Japan it is most importantly a strategic alliance, national security matter.
A sale of Soryus to Australia may weaken Japan's national security:
Selling to Australia would involve a major diversion of Japanese industrial and submarine corps resources to plan, train and generally liase with Australian industry and Australian submariners. Japan's limited resources might be better focussed monitoring or more active measures against Japan's potential enemies.
Sales to Australia might disrupt Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) submarine production lines to supply the Japanese submarine corps. This particularly in view of Japan's goal of expanding its submarine corps from the current 16 operational submarine to the goal of 22 submarines. More specifically there may be strategic pressure for a Soryu earmarked (by contract) for Australia on a production line to be diverted to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) instead. Such a diversion might raise political and contractual difficulties for Japan.
The prospect of sales to Australia may encourage the Soryu's submarine builders (MHI and KHI) to modify the Soryus to a standard configuration that does not suit JMSDF requirements. For example it is possible that two reasons for Japan's decision to delete Stirling air independent propulsion (AIP) from the future batch of Soryus were:
- Australia's assessment, since the 1980s, that AIP is problematic, involving negative trade-offs, that do not meet Australia's needs, and
- for legal property right reasons Japan could not sell Swedish Stirling engine AIP technology to third countries, including Australia.
It is also possible the future batch of Soryu will have much longer range, to suit Australia's operational requirements but this longer range might not be ideal for the JMSDF's needs.
Due to China's trade value to Australia Japan cannot rely on Australia to support Japan in any confrontation or outright conflict with China (eg. arising from East China or South China Sea matters). Australains see the islands in the East China and South China Seas as more to do with current opportunistic economic claims than national historical claims. This means that in any conflict in those seas Australia may support the claims of its major trade partner - which is China.
Australia's security laws and rules may be detrimental to Japan's security overall. Part of the weakness would stem from Chinese government and corporate influence over Australia. For example Australia's China situation may result in Australian steel-making companies inadvertently sharing newly acquired Japanese steel secrets with Chinese steelmaking business partners.
Australia's laws overall make racial discrimination illegal in employment - particularly for government jobs, including the submarine corps. A main area of Japanese concern might be Australian tolerance of former Chinese citizens, or ethnic Chinese generally, being inducted as Australian submariners or into broader Australian government or submarine-shipbuilding industry positions. China has a reputation for pressuring ethnic Chinese in the West - even if they have only distant cousins or elderly grandparents still living in China. The Chinese government can deny Chinese citizens careers, lose jobs, lose pensions or worse if their Australia based relatives are not cooperative. Australia cannot match Japan's ability to control the ethnic security of submarine crews or such security in the broader submarine industry.