Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have announced a new trilateral security partnership, including a joint effort to help the Australian military acquire nuclear-powered submarines, in an apparent attempt to counter China.
The leaders of all three countries on Wednesday unveiled the alliance, called AUKUS, and stressed that the submarines will be nuclear power and will not carry nuclear weapons.
Australia is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Almost joined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson, USA President Joe Biden said the three countries were taking a “historic step” to deepen their cooperation.
“We all recognize the need to ensure long-term peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Biden said from the White House.
‘We need to be able to address the current strategic environment in the region and its development, because the future of each of our nations — and indeed the world — depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific that continues to flourish for decades. . forward. ”
The three leaders did not explicitly mention China in their remarks on Wednesday.
Shortly after the announcement, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, said the three countries should “shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice,” the Wall Street Journal and Reuters news agency reported.
The spokesperson condemns what he calls ‘exclusion blocs’ that are aimed at the interests of other countries.
The Australian Morrison said the newly announced partnership ‘will deliver a safer and more secure region’ that will ultimately benefit everyone.
“Let me be clear: Australia does not want to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civilian nuclear capability,” he added. “And we will continue to meet all of our core non-proliferation commitments.”
Morrison also said that Australia intends to build submarines in Adelaide, on the south coast of the country, in collaboration with the United Kingdom and the USA.
The announcement comes amid growing competition between Beijing and Washington and its allies in the Pacific, especially over Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.
In recent years, China has built artificial islands in the South China Sea that have turned it into military outposts, deploying its coastguard and maritime militia. Tensions have also risen across the Taiwan Strait as an arms race begins in Korea, where Pyongyang has tested new weapons amid halted disarmament talks.
The United States regularly conducted “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea and near Taiwan, while the British navy also intensified activities in the region. The aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is in the region and did exercises with the Japanese army last month after earlier sailing through the South China Sea.
An unnamed U.S. official told reporters on Wednesday that AUKUS was “not targeting any country.”
“This is about a greater effort to maintain the structure of engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific,” the official said.
The US and Australia are already strengthening their defense ties as part of the so-called Squares, which also includes India and Japan. The group will meet in the United States next week.
Johnson said the joint effort to manufacture Australia’s nuclear submarines would be one of the “most complex and technically demanding projects in the world”.
“Australia is one of our oldest friends, a nation of fellowship and fellow democracy and a natural partner in this enterprise,” Johnson said.
A joint statement by the three countries states that the US and the UK would use their expertise to manufacture the submarines for Australia as early as possible.
“We will promote deeper information and technology expansion,” reads the statement. ‘We will promote a deeper integration of security and defense related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities. “
Australia has signed a multi-billion dollar contract to buy French submarines in 2016.
The new agreement effectively terminates the agreement.
“This is a decision that is contrary to the letter and the spirit of cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
‘The US choice, leading to the removal of an ally and a European partner like France from a long-standing partnership with Australia, at a time when we face unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. .. indicates a lack of consistency that France can not but notice and regret it, ”he added.