US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British counterpart Boris Johnson had a tripartite video conference on September 16. A tripartite agreement on defense cooperation, called AUKUS for short, was also announced during the event.
Under the deal, the US will provide Australia with the technology and the ability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
The leaders stressed that Australia would not have nuclear weapons, but that the Australian military would use nuclear propulsion for submarines, as a precaution against “future threats”.
According to Australian Prime Minister Morrison, the submarines will be built in Adelaide (Australia) in close cooperation with the US and UK. He stressed that Australia will continue to comply with international treaties on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
British Prime Minister Johnson calls the agreement to upgrade Australia’s submarine fleet “one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world”. The parties will continue to coordinate and work on this issue for the next 18 months.
US officials say nuclear propulsion will allow Australian naval submarines to operate quieter, longer and provide a significant deterrent in the Indo-Pacific.
In addition to nuclear submarines, the US – Australia – UK cooperation under the AUKUS framework also includes the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum technology and cyberspace.
Reuters news agency quoted a US official as saying that Washington’s help in Australia’s development of nuclear submarines was a very special move. According to the official, so far the UK is the only country that has received US support to build a nuclear submarine fleet.
“This technology is extremely sensitive. Aiding Australia could be an exception for the US,” the official said, adding that there would be no other exceptions after this one.
The leaders of the US, UK and Australia at the ceremony to announce new security cooperation initiatives at dawn on September 16 – Photo: REUTERS
AFP news agency commented that although the three leaders did not mention China when announcing AUKUS, their intentions and goals were clear.
“We all recognize the urgency of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden argued during the meeting.
Sharing the same view, Australian Prime Minister Morrison emphasized: “Our world is becoming more complex, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. This affects all of us. The future. of the Indo-Pacific will affect the future of all”.
British Prime Minister Johnson stressed that London will work with countries to “join hands to maintain stability and security in the Indo-Pacific”.
The trilateral agreement has angered China. Beijing has always been wary of the West’s Indo-Pacific strategies, seeing it as a way for these countries to increase their military presence in areas around China.
In a statement on September 16, the Chinese Embassy in the US opposed the cooperation and said that the US, UK and Australia were targeting China. “Countries should shed their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.”
Naval Group, which is negotiating the construction of conventional submarines for Australia, also expressed disappointment. The 31-billion-euro deal to build 12 submarines, promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron, is on the verge of being cancelled.
US President Biden seems to have tried to appease the Naval Group and the Paris government. He described France as an “important partner and ally” in the Indo-Pacific during the AUKUS announcement ceremony.