Japan’s last ditch subs effort

President Abe is desperate for the deal. Photo: Getty/Supplied

President Abe is desperate for the deal. Photo: Getty/Supplied

The Japanese government is weighing options for a top-level intervention to promote its flagging bid to build Australia’s $50bn future fleet of submarines.

The ABC has been told a direct call by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to plead Japan’s case is among the options being considered.

After 14 months assessing bids by Japanese, French and German submarine builders, the Competitive Evaluation Process is reaching a conclusion and the National Security Committee of Cabinet is now considering a final decision.

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Hints have emerged that the two European bidders have trumped the Japanese offering of an adapted version of its 4,000 tonne displacement Soryu class boat for Australia’s next fleet of 12 submarines.

Shinzo Abe

President Abe is desperate for the deal. Photo: Getty

Alarmed by media reports that its bid is languishing behind the French and Germans, Tokyo is scrambling to make a counter-move to revive its prospects before an expected public announcement by the Turnbull government within a week.

Japanese government sources have let it be known that Mr Abe is keeping a close watch on the bid, led by contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Diplomatic cables, media reports and all available intelligence on rival bidders is being assembled by a team in Tokyo to brief the Prime Minister on his options.

If it was not for a series of earthquakes on the island Kyushi, which have killed more than 40 people, sources have suggested the fate of the submarine deal would have dominated Mr Abe’s attention.

Japan’s interest in what would be its first export of a major defence platform was originally driven by an informal agreement between Mr Abe and then prime minister Tony Abbott.

But domestic political considerations linked to Mr Abbott’s “near death” leadership experience in February 2015 gave rise to the rigorous Competitive Evaluation Process, which has pitted the Japanese boat against European bidders.

Both the French DCNS shipbuilder and the German thyssenkrupp Marine have experience in building submarines for export.

Figures close to the assessment process have suggested Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is running a poor third for technical and engineering reasons, but also because of a lack of experience in foreign military sales.



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