US foreign policy updates
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The US has launched a new trilateral security partnership with the UK and Australia that will enable Canberra to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, a move that will strengthen the allies’ ability to counter China.
President Joe Biden announces the effort, which aims to strengthen alliances amid growing tensions with China over disputes ranging from the South China Sea to Taiwan, in a virtual event Wednesday night with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
Biden said the initiative, including the submarine plan, was needed to ensure that the countries had the best technology to ‘defend against rapidly evolving threats’, in rhetoric apparently aimed at Beijing.
“Our nations. . . has literally stood shoulder to shoulder for more than 100 years, ”he said. “Today we are taking another historic step to deepen and formalize cooperation. . . because we all recognize the need to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. ”
A senior US official said that while Australia would acquire nuclear propulsion technology – which the US only shared with the UK – that Canberra would not develop nuclear weapons. Biden also stressed that the submarines would not be armed with nuclear weapons.
The US official said the vessels would boost Australian naval capability because they are faster and more uncomfortable than conventional submarines. The submarines can also travel further from Australia, also in the South China Sea, and do not have to come up as often.
Morrison said the allies need to elevate their partnership to a ‘new level’ due to the increasingly complex environment in Asia, another thinly veiled reference to China. Johnson said they were “opening a new chapter” and that they would work “hand in glove” to preserve security and stability “in Asia.
The leaders said that in addition to helping Australia build a nuclear-powered submarine force, they would also strengthen co-operation in areas such as cyber security, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
One British official said the alliance would focus on maritime and defense technology, as opposed to the “Five Eyes” arrangement whereby the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada share intelligence.
US official said Biden did not tell Chinese Xi Jinping about the initiative the two leaders spoke last week. The new partnership, called AUKUS, was formed a week before Biden would present the leaders of Japan, India and Australia for the first personal summit of the “Quad”. The Quad Security Group is also designed to counter China and is described by Beijing as an ‘Asian NATO’.
The Chinese embassy in Washington criticized Tuesday’s decision, saying the US, UK and Australia should not build ‘exclusion blocs’. . . the interests of third parties ”.
“They need to shake off their cold war mentality and ideological prejudice,” embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu added.
Kori Schake, head of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, said Wednesday’s agreement would send a strong signal to Beijing.
“It strikes me as an elegant message, a reminder to China that Australia has the technological capabilities and alliance relations that could become a nuclear force if the threat posed by China becomes so serious,” Schake said. “It [is] also. . . a good moment for the Biden administration to reaffirm its commitment to the security of its allies following the debacle of US withdrawal from Afghanistan. ”
Australian media have said Canberra will end an existing $ 90 billion program to buy 12 conventional French-designed submarines. The official said the allies will decide over the next 18 months how to build the navy.
“This is a fundamental decision that has bound Australia and the United States and Great Britain for generations,” the US official said.
Richard Fontaine, head of the Center for a New American Security, said the submarines were a “major problem” that would not only offer Australia better opportunities, but also help Washington, especially amid criticism that China is outperforming the US with the construction of naval ships and submarines.
‘The real measure of comparison is not China on the one hand and the US on the other. It is China on the one hand with the USA and its allies on the other, “Fontaine said.