Japan, France to start joint work on unmanned surveillance vehicles

Japan is set to launch joint research with France to develop unmanned submersible vehicles, a Japanese government official said Tuesday.

Japan hopes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will agree with President Francois Hollande on the plan on unmanned surveillance vehicles when they meet in Paris next Monday, the official said.

The two countries have agreed to jointly develop defense equipment, and Japan aims to keep China in check as Beijing is trying to strengthen ties with Paris.

Abe left Japan on Tuesday for a 10-day tour to visit Germany, Britain, Portugal, Spain, France and Belgium, to hold talks with the leaders of the six European countries.

Japan assumes the research will be on technology related to unmanned submersible robots that can stay underwater to conduct warning and surveillance activities for many hours.

For the current fiscal year ending next March, Japan's Defense Ministry has allocated about 500 million yen for research funding on unmanned vehicle technology to improve its underwater information-gathering capabilities.

France, an arms-exporting country, is interested in Japan's high technology. Japan intends to create a framework that prevents defense equipment it co-develops with France from being exported to a third country.

In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to boost economic cooperation with France when he visited Paris to see Hollande.