The US, UK and Australia have unveiled details of their plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, aimed at countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Under the AUKUS pact Australia is to get its first nuclear-powered subs – at least three – from the US.
The allies will also work to create a new fleet using cutting-edge tech, including UK-made Rolls-Royce reactors.
But US President Joe Biden said the deal was aimed at bolstering peace in the region and stressed the submarines would be “nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed”.
Speaking alongside the UK and Australian prime ministers – Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese – in San Diego, California, Biden said the deal would not jeopardize Australia’s commitment to being a nuclear-free country.
President Biden said all three countries were committed to ensuring the Indo-Pacific region would remain free and open.
“Forging this new partnership, we’re showing again how democracies can deliver our own security and prosperity… not just for us but for the entire world,” he said.
“Today, as we stand at an inflection point in history, where the where the hard work of advancing deterrence and promoting stability is going to affect the prospect of peace for decades to come, the United States can ask for no better partner in the Indo-Pacific, where so much of our shared future will be written,” he added.
For Australia, it is a major upgrade to the US ally’s military capabilities. The country becomes just the second after the UK to receive Washington’s elite nuclear propulsion technology.
The submarines will be able to operate further and faster than the country’s existing diesel-engine fleet and Australia will also be able to carry out long-range strikes against enemies for the first time.
China blasts US, UK, and Australia submarine deal
Beijing has strongly criticized the significant naval deal.
Its foreign ministry on Tuesday accused the three nations of “walking further and further down the path of error and danger”.
“The latest joint statement from the U.S., U.K. and Australia demonstrates that the three countries, for the sake of their own geopolitical interests, completely disregard the concerns of the international communities and are walking further and further down the path of error and danger,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday.
China’s UN mission had earlier also accused the Western allies of setting back nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
China has argued that the AUKUS deal violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It contends that the transfer of nuclear weapons materials from a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear-weapon state is a “blatant” violation of the spirit of the pact.
Australian officials have pushed back against the criticism, arguing that they are working to acquire nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed, submarines.
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