President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he will be working with the United Kingdom to help Australia get nuclear-powered submarines, a partnership the nations are calling “AUKUS.”
The countries’ efforts are part of a larger movement headed by Biden to counter China’s growing international power. Biden hopes that working with other nations will strengthen the global position against China.
Although the three nations explicitly stated that their partnership is not specifically about China, Biden has made it clear that countering China’s autocracy with democracy is one of the primary goals of his foreign policy.
The US, UK and Australia will hold meetings over the next months to discuss cyber security, developing technologies, and defense. The AUKUS alliance hopes to strengthen the nations ability to engage with contemporary security threats.
AUKUS believes that suppling Australia with nuclear submarines will give the country the ability to function at a more advanced military level. Nuclear submarines are capable of moving at faster speeds and withstanding greater amounts of stress than standard submarines.
The US and the UK are working together to form teams capable of helping Australia obtain nuclear submarines within the next 18 months. The new plan comes right after Australia’s $90 billion deal with France for normal submarines.
U.S. officials noted that helping allies with nuclear propulsion is an extremely atypical move for America, having only happened once before.
“This technology is extremely sensitive. This is, frankly, an exception to our policy in many respects,” a U.S. official said.
The official believes it was a crucial step in showing countries in Asia that America and its allies are prepared for the increased tension between the US and China. Despite this, American officials are wary of calling the move a direct provocation to China.
AUKUS is a step forward in Biden’s larger game plan
Despite this hesitancy to address China, AUKUS is widely viewed as Biden’s most recent step towards stifling China’s growing international power. Biden is set to host a summit of the QUAD alliance of Japan, Australia and India next week, and many perceive this partnership as a strategy to affirm American control in Asia.
Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for an hour and a half on the pone last week, in their first one-on-one conference in seven months. Officials close to Biden said that the meeting was “candid” and non-contentious, but that Biden made no mention of his forthcoming plans to form AUKUS.