Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has denied reports that the United States is pressuring Australia into buying Japanese submarines. Bishop said she was “amazed” at such reports. The foreign minister’s denial comes in the midst of reports that the US is lobbying for Japan.
Bishop’s response on submarine deal was reported by Adelaide Now. Australia is in the process of acquiring new submarines to replace its ageing Collins-class boats.
Media reports had suggested Washington’s preference for Japan in the Aussie submarine deal. The US reportedly indicated that it would provide the US Navy’s most advanced combat systems to Aussie submarines, only if Japan is handling the submarine production.
This is Japan’s trump card in the three-way race for the deal. The other two contenders are Germany and France. The estimated cost of the submarine project is more than US$36 billion (AU$50 billion).
The US believes that Japan’s Soryu submarine would offer the best interoperability between Australian and American submarines. It would also enhance the “trilateral strategic co-operation” among the US, Japan and Australia.
The Australian reported that the US harbours doubts about Germany’s ability to protect critical defence technology from the industrial espionage of China.
The US reportedly discussed the matter with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his US trip in January. It also figured in the PM’s discussions with the US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris and other military figures.
For public consumption, Washington’s official line is that it would respect any decision made by Canberra. But the rider that the decision has a “strategic dimension” is the real code showing its preference for Japan.
An analysis by US think tank, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also said Australian subs have a “vital capability.” It also said “further delays in decision making” could risk serious gaps in Australian capability. The review noted that China’s massive military expansion and the cuts in the US defence budget are affecting the US capability deployment in the region.