Sunak, Biden, Albanese to finalise AUKUS deal

PM pledges to increase defence spending by nearly £5bn over the next two years to counter emerging threats…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak has hailed the UK’s global alliances as its “greatest source of strength and security” as he prepared to meet Joe Biden to flesh out a major defence deal.

The prime minister is flying to San Diego on Sunday to discuss nuclear-powered submarines with the US President and Australian premier Anthony Albanese.

UK ministers have high hopes that Albanese will announce the purchase of a British-designed fleet. The UK, US and Australia agreed the AUKUS pact in 2021 to boost their defences and share nuclear submarine secrets at a time of growing concern over China.

While on the US west coast on Monday, Sunak is also set to unveil the new integrated review of defence and foreign policy, which was being updated in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The refreshed review will set out the UK’s approach to threats from Moscow and an increasingly assertive China.

Ahead of his trip, the prime minister said: “In turbulent times, the UK’s global alliances are our greatest source of strength and security.

“I am travelling to the United States today to launch the next stage of the AUKUS nuclear submarine programme, a project which is binding ties to our closest allies and delivering security, new technology and economic advantage at home. As we launch the 2023 Integrated Review Refresh tomorrow, this is the future we want to deliver – a UK that is secure, prosperous and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners.”

The prime minister also held a call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of his flight to the US.

Sunak briefed the alliance chief on the UK’s upcoming defence review and reaffirmed the UK’s intention to remain a leading contributor to NATO.

Sunak announces £5bn extra defence spending

Rishi Sunak has pledged to increase defence spending by nearly £5bn over the next two years to counter emerging threats from hostile states.

The funding boost will be confirmed in a new UK foreign and security strategy, to be published on Monday.

It comes ahead of talks between the prime minister and his US and Australian counterparts in California.

The trio are set to agree details of a UK-US pact to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

The agreement, known as the Aukus pact, was signed in 2021 as part of a joint effort to counter Chinese military power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Reports have suggested Australia could opt to build a modified version of the British Astute-class submarine, while taking delivery of up to five US Virginia-class submarines during the production stage.

Downing Street said £3bn from the extra spending would be earmarked to support the pact, along with boosting industrial infrastructure and servicing UK submarines.

The remaining £1.9bn will be used to replace weapons sent to Ukraine and improve the UK’s munitions infrastructure.

Of the new money, £1.98bn will be spent this year and £2.97bn next year, with defence spending then reviewed again after 2025.

Spending after this date would be assessed against a target to increase defence spending to 2.5% of national income in the “longer term”, No 10 said, without specifying a timeframe.

Sunak’s short-lived predecessor Liz Truss had committed to spend 3% of GDP on defence by 2030 – but the prime minister has stepped back from that pledge.

A new version of the so-called Integrated Review will be published on Monday, replacing the first version of the security strategy document unveiled under Boris Johnson in 2021.

The update was ordered by Ms Truss in September last year to take account of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Downing Street said the new strategy would take account of an increased security risk posed by Moscow, as well as “increasingly concerning” military, financial and diplomatic activity by China.

It is expected to confirm extra funding for Mandarin language training and diplomatic expertise on China, as well as a new approach to guaranteeing UK access to minerals critical to new industries.

The document will also outline details of a new training curriculum for security officials, as well as a unit within MI5 to offer security advice to businesses and other organisations.

Speaking ahead of the document’s release, Sunak said the increased defence spending would help the UK “stand our ground” in an increasingly “volatile” world.

“We have seen all too clearly in the last year how global crises impact us at home, with Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine driving up energy and food prices,” he told reporters on the plane taking him to the meeting in the US.

“We will fortify our national defences, from economic security to technology supply chains and intelligence expertise, to ensure we are never again vulnerable to the actions of a hostile power.”

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