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    Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces diesel-electric submarine Soryu. (File)

    Top Secret Japanese Submarines Likely to Replace Australia's Aging Fleet

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    Australia is considering buying Japanese submarines equipped with advanced military technology. The move will most likely affect the relations of Australia and China, the dominant geopolitical rival of Japan in the region.

    MOSCOW, December 18 (Sputnik), Ekaterina Blinova – The Australian leadership is considering an arm deal with Japan to buy 12 submarines based on Soryu-class vessels.

    "Australia is considering buying top-secret technology from Japan to build a fleet of new generation submarines, a move that would risk reigniting diplomatic tensions with China only recently smoothed over," Bloomberg reported.

    The media outlet underscores that Australian Defense Minister David Johnston has acknowledged that the authorities are considering "unsolicited proposals" made by Japan, Germany, Sweden and France to provide the Australian fleet with new submarines. The minister confirmed that the country was planning to replace its six Collins-class diesel electric submarines by 2026.  

    The Australian reported that although Japan, Germany, France and Sweden "are all keen" to build the vessels for Australia, the Japanese manufacturers are "ahead of the others," since they have the most experience building conventional submarines large enough to meet Australia's needs." Reuters also noted in November 2014 that Canberra was leaning toward buying new Japanese submarines, based on an advanced lithium-ion battery propulsion system.

    Experts emphasize that the Australian-Japanese military deal is likely to aggravate tensions between Canberra and Beijing.

    "The government's preference seems to be the Japanese, but there are still lots of hurdles. Japan hasn't exported sensitive military technology before and while a deal would mean ties between two close US allies would strengthen, it would be seen in China as a dark cloud," noted Mark Thomson, a defense economics analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, as cited by Bloomberg.

    Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the US-based Heritage Foundation, deems that Beijing would undoubtedly qualify the deal as "the 'black hand' of Washington at work."

    "Japan is clearly stepping beyond its traditional interpretation of its pacifist policy, which China may see as opening the door to a more forceful role in Asia," he said.

    The Chinese expert Shi Yongming from the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing believes that the US would praise the military deal between Japan and Australia: "It's in the US interest to have the security ties between its two major allies in the region strengthened," he stressed.

    The deal will strengthen Japan's positions and shift the balance of power in the region, experts underscore.

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