US may join Japan-Aussie sub project

RSS Swordsman, a second Archer-class submarine by the Republic of Singapore Navy, which arrived at Changi Naval Base from Sweden in 2012. Singapore will for the first time buy brand new submarines.

WASHINGTON / JAKARTA - The United States is considering participating in the joint development of a new submarine for Australia, which the Japanese and Australian governments earlier agreed to begin discussing, according to sources close to the matter.

The Australian government apparently wants to introduce a Japanese-made submarine hull and adopt US-made systems and weaponry. If the joint development by the three countries is realised, their cooperative relationships in the military field, which have been limited so far to joint exercises, will enter a new stage.

The sources said Japan, the United States and Australia will likely hold trilateral summit talks for the first time in seven years on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit to be held in Australia next month. Officials of the three governments are coordinating views so that their leaders can exchange opinions on the joint development of the submarine while discussing military cooperation, they said.

Japan and Australia agreed to start discussions on the joint development of the submarine when their defence ministers met on Oct. 16.

Australia's Collins-class submarines use a battle system created by Raytheon Co. of the United States.

The Australian government plans to renew six Collins-class submarines from around 2030 to broaden their range.

Although Australia plans to adopt Soryu-class submarines - the Maritime Self-Defence Force's most advanced submarines - it wants to adopt US systems and communication equipment for the battle system to maintain interoperability with the US military, the sources said.

The US government would obviously welcome such a move as the Australians apparently want to equip the new submarine with US cruise missiles.

Behind the emerging idea of the development of a new submarine by the three countries is China's continuing advance into the Pacific and Indian oceans.

As for the "rebalancing" of Asia policy that the administration of US President Barack Obama is promoting, observers believe reinforcing military partnerships among the nations concerned will enhance the military deterrent.

However, the three governments will probably hold their discussions behind closed doors for the time being because of opposition in Australia that the joint development of submarines may impair the country's military industry, the sources said.

To win public understanding, the Australian government is likely to have its new submarines maintained and repaired at home. Speech