AUSTRALIA and Japan could deepen defence ties by co-operating on Australia’s next generation of submarines, a think tank says.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) says Japan’s expertise in building submarines suited to Pacific operations could be of interest to Australia as it looks to replace its six Collins boats.
Australia and Japan could also co-operate on ballistic missile defence, with Japan already fielding SM-3 missiles on its Kongo-class warships – a capability Australia is considering for its air warfare destroyers.
“In particular, Japan and Australia could increase their defence industry co-operation and ease export controls, a move that Japan has recently taken with the United Kingdom,” ASPI says in a paper released on Monday.
Australia promised on Tuesday to be a future long-tem supplier of rare earths to Japan, after China suspended shipments of the minerals to its neighbor.
After Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara raised the issue during strategic and trade talks in Canberra, Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd hinted rare earths would likely form part of a free trade pact being negotiated with Tokyo.
"The Australian government understands the significance of rare earths globally. Australia stands ready to be a long term, secure, reliable supplier of rare earths to the Japanese economy," Rudd told reporters in a news conference with Maehara.
For the past two months, China had suspended shipments to Japan of rare earths, crucial minerals for many high-tech products, due to a spat over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Japan is the world’s fourth biggest user of the minerals.
Maehara, on his first bilateral visit overseas, said he was making Japanese access to rare earths, and security of resource supplies generally, one of his top foreign policy priorities.