Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, told media during her recent visit to Japan that volatility in the region required a closer co-operation between Australia and Japan.
This comment was widely interpreted as a sign of inclination towards the Japanese bid for the Australian A$40 billion submarine deal.
Separately, Australian news site SMH reported that the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during the same meeting urged the Australian government to award the deal to Japan stressing the strategic advance the cooperation between the two countries would bring.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the Australian minister however noted that a definite decision would be made only after the competitive evaluation process was completed.
Chief executive of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan’s primary bidder, was reported as saying that both French and German options had “shortcomings”. Namely, he insisted that the French proposal of retro-fitting a nuclear submarine with a diesel engine was not a good idea.
Media also reported analysts commenting the German option of scaling up a 2.000 tonne submarine to a 4.000 tonne one as a solution being wrought with “significant engineering challenges”.
Also, U.S. officials have been reported as saying that the U.S. feared the French defence contractor DCNS, who would be building the submarines, would leak confidential information about the U.S. technology that would be fitted on the subs.
The Future Submarine Program is the largest Defence procurement program in Australia’s history and represents an investment in the order of $40 billion in Australia’s security. A decision on who will be building the Collins-class successor submarines is expected to be made mid-year after Australia’s new Defence White Paper is released.