Japan will join competitive bidding to sell Australia a fleet of stealth submarines, the government said on Monday, a move expected to require Tokyo to supply Canberra with classified data.
The development comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moves to strengthen security ties with ally the United States and some countries in the region including Australia in the face of China's rapid military modernization and maritime expansion.
"We have decided to participate" in the bidding to replace Australia's ageing fleet, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.
The "competitive assessment" will see Germany's ThyssenKrupp and France's state-controlled naval contractor DCNS separately competing with a Japanese government-led bid for such contractors as Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Japan had been the front runner in the planned sale of around 12 vessels, for as much as $40 billion, to replace Australia's ageing Collins class submarines, sources have said, until Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened up the bidding under pressure from opposition and ruling party lawmakers.