Aimed at countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, leaders of the US, UK and Australia have unveiled new details of their plan…reports Asian Lite News
President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom on Monday announced that Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the US in a deal estimated to total around €342 billion to modernise its fleet amid growing concern about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.
“Today, we’re announcing the steps to carry out our first project under AUKUS and developing Australia’s conventionally armed nuclear-armed submarine capacity,” President Joe Biden announced during a joint press conference in San Diego.
“From early in the next decade, Australia will take delivery of three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines. We are also proud to partner with the United Kingdom to construct the next-generation submarine, to be called SSN-AUKUS. A new, conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine based on a British design, and incorporating cutting edge Australian, UK, and US technologies,” revealed Australian PM Anthony Albanese.
The AUKUS partnership, announced in 2021, paved the way for Australia’s access to nuclear-powered submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered boats, as a counterweight to China’s military buildup.
Biden, appearing sensitive to tensions with China and its criticism of the deal, stressing that “They’re nuclear-powered – not nuclear-armed.”
“The AUKUS agreement we confirm here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in our history – strengthening Australia’s national security and stability in our region,” said Albanese.
“In the last 18 months, the challenge we face has only grown. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilising behaviour of Iran and North Korea, all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“Faced with this new reality, it’s more important than ever we strengthen the resilience of our own countries. For the first time, the United Kingdom will move away from our baseline commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence to a new ambition of 2.5%,” Sunak added.
From 2027, the US and UK will base a small number of nuclear subs at a RAN base in Perth, Western Australia, before Australia buys three American Virginia-class submarines in the early 2030s – with options to purchase two more.
After that, the plan is to design and build an entirely new nuclear-powered submarine for the UK and Australian navies, called SSN-AUKUS.
This attack craft will be built in the UK and Australia to a British design, but use technology from all three countries.
The interim and future boats will give Australia submarines which can travel further and faster than its existing fleet, with cruise missiles that could strike targets on land and at sea.
The submarines will however, not carry nuclear weapons and US, Australian and British officials have insisted the plans are consistent with international non-proliferation rules, despite Chinese protestations.
Addressing reporters at the Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego while being flanked by the Prime Ministers of Australia and the UK, Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunak, respectively, US President Joe Biden called AUKUS a “powerful entity”.
“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.
“Today, as we stand at the inflection point in history, where the hard work of enhancing deterrence and promoting stability is going to affect the prospects of peace for decades to come, the US can ask for no better partners in the Indo-Pacific, where so much of our shared future will be written,” CNN quoted Biden as saying.
The President stressed that the US has “safeguarded stability in Indo-Pacific for decades, to the enormous benefits of nations throughout the region from ASEAN to Pacific Islanders to the People’s Republic of China”.
“In fact, our leadership in the Pacific has been the benefit to the entire world. We’ve kept the sea lanes and skies open and navigable for all. We’ve upheld basic rules of the road.”
On his part, Sunak directly named China as a cause for concern.
“China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilizing behaviour of Iran and North Korea all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division. Faced with this new reality, it is more important than ever, that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries,” he added.
Meanwhile, Albanese said the submarine plan would create thousands of new jobs and marked the “biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in all of its history”.
“This will be an Australian sovereign capability, commanded by the royal Australian navy and sustained by Australian workers in Australian shipyards with construction to begin this decade,” the BBC quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
He also noted that the agreement marks the first time in 65 years and only the second time in history that the US has shared its nuclear propulsion technology.
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