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Tokyo (AFP) — Japan and the United States will jointly develop a fuel-cell powered submarine that can run for a month under the sea on a single charge, a report said on Friday.

The top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the unmanned, 33-feet long sub would be able to chart a pre-programmed course before returning to base.

The story, citing unnamed Japanese defense ministry officials, comes as Tokyo and Washington look to beef up their security alliance as they warily eye an increasingly assertive China.

Defense ministry officials could not immediately confirm the deal.

The submarine would be used for patrolling with sonar capable of detecting potential threats, but it would not be equipped with torpedos or other weaponry, the Yomiuri said.

Japan’s defense ministry would earmark about 2.6 billion yen ($25 million) over the next five years to develop the high-performance fuel cell, it added.

The U.S. military reportedly got involved when it heard about its Japanese counterparts’ plans for a fuel-cell sub.

Fuel cells generate emissions-free energy through a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, and are most commonly associated with environmentally friendly vehicles.

Japan is a leader in the technology while the US a major player in hydrogen storage development.

In June, Japan and Australia announced a possible submarine development deal as they stepped up their defense ties.

AFP Photo/Kazuhiro Nogi

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