April 28, 2014 2:20 pm JST

Japan, Australia eye boosting tech cooperation in defense equipment

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his Australian counterpart David Johnston meet on Monday.

PERTH, Australia (Kyodo) -- Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his Australian counterpart David Johnston agreed Monday to expand technological cooperation in defense equipment after Japan relaxed its arms embargo.

     Johnston also expressed support for Japan's move toward lifting its ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, Onodera told reporters after the talks in the western coastal city of Perth in Australia.

     The meeting came after summit talks in early April between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott in Tokyo. The leaders agreed to start negotiations for a framework agreement on joint development of defense equipment.

     Following up on the summit, Onodera and Johnston confirmed they will accelerate efforts to sign such a framework agreement possibly in June when a "two-plus-two" meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of both countries will be held in Tokyo.

     Japan's advanced submarine technology has gained attention from Australia, with Johnston expressing interest during the talks. But Onodera only said it is important to hold working-level talks as the technology is "highly confidential."

     On April 1, Japan adopted new principles and guidelines on the transfer of defense equipment and technology in the first major overhaul of its restrictive policy in nearly half a century, as Abe seeks to rework the country's defense and security policies.

     The controversial issue of reinterpreting the war-renouncing Constitution to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or defending allies under armed attack, is a top priority for Abe.

     Japan is trying to bolster security ties with Australia in light of China's growing military presence and assertiveness in the region. The two defense chiefs shared the view that Tokyo and Canberra would not tolerate any attempts to change the status quo by force in the Pacific and Indian oceans, a reference apparently aimed at China.

     Onodera said Japan and Australia agreed to increase joint exercises in marine rescue and disaster relief operations with the United States, their key ally.

     Japan has dispatched two P-3C aircraft to the Australian Air Force's Pearce base near Perth to join a massive multinational search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 jetliner with 239 people on board.