To counter China, US and allies agreed for a “a powerful partnership”

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  • The leaders of the United States, Australia and Britain join hands  to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Sunak called it “a powerful partnership. For the first time ever it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across the Atlantic and Pacific keeping our oceans free … for decades to come.”
  • Biden stressed that the submarines would be nuclear-powered, not nuclear armed.
  • China has condemned AUKUS as an illegal act of nuclear proliferation. In launching the partnership Australia also upset France by abruptly cancelling a deal to buy French conventional submarines.
  • AUKUS reflected mounting threats in the Indo-Pacific, not just from China towards Taiwan in the contested South China Sea, but also from Russia.

The leaders of the United States, Australia and Britain revealed details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines, involving investment of hundreds of billions of dollars aimed at countering China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

Addressing a ceremony at the U.S. naval base in San Diego, U.S. President Joe Biden called the agreement under the 2021 AUKUS partnership part of a shared commitment to a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region with two of America’s “most stalwart and capable allies.” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also witnessed the event.

Sunak called it “a powerful partnership,” adding: “For the first time ever it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across the Atlantic and Pacific keeping our oceans free … for decades to come.”

The statement from the leaders said the multi-stage project would culminate with British and Australian production and operation of a new class of submarine – SSN-AUKUS – a “trilaterally developed” vessel based on Britain’s next-generation design that would be built in Britain and Australia and include “cutting edge” U.S. technologies.

Biden stressed that the submarines would be nuclear-powered, not nuclear armed. Britain will take delivery of its first SSN-AUKUS submarine in the late 2030s, and Australia would receive its first in the early 2040s, Albanese and the British statement said.

AUKUS will be the first time Washington has shared nuclear-propulsion technology since it did so with Britain in the 1950s. China has condemned AUKUS as an illegal act of nuclear proliferation. In launching the partnership Australia also upset France by abruptly cancelling a deal to buy French conventional submarines. Albanese said he expected the AUKUS deal would result in A$6 billion invested in Australia’s industrial capability over the next four years and create around 20,000 direct jobs over the next 30 years.

One senior U.S. official said AUKUS reflected mounting threats in the Indo-Pacific, not just from China towards self-ruled Taiwan and in the contested South China Sea, but also from Russia, which has conducted joint exercises with China, and North Korea as well.

Albanese said that South Australia and Western Australia would be big beneficiaries of AUKUS. “This is about jobs, including jobs in manufacturing,” he said. Britain, which left the European Union in 2020, says AUKUS will help boost its economy’s low growth rate.

Political analysts said that given China’s growing power and its threats to reunify with Taiwan by force if necessary, it was also vital to advance the second stage of AUKUS, which involves hypersonics and other weaponry that can be deployed more quickly. U.S. officials said Monday’s announcements will not cover this second stage.

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