Aukus: UK, US, and Australia launch pact to counter China and the three leaders welcomed what President Biden described as a “historic step”.
This is a historic security pact in the Asia-Pacific, in what’s seen as an effort to counter China and allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US.
The pact, to be known as Aukus, will also cover artificial intelligence, cyber and quantum technologies. This is going to be the hugest defence partnership among the countries in decades, analysts say.
The new partnership intended to “promote security and prosperity” in the region, said US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in a joint virtual press briefing.
“This is a historic opportunity for the three nations, with like-minded allies and partners, to protect shared values and promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” the joint statement read.
While the leaders did not mention China directly, they hinted that regional security challenges had “grown significantly”. Over the last few years, Western democracies have all displayed worries about China’s growing military assertiveness.
China’s embassy in Washington reacted by blaming the countries for a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
The pact signifies that Australia has torn up a A$50bn (€31bn; £27bn) deal it signed with France in 2016, to build 12 submarines.
What is Aukus?
It is presumably the most important security arrangement between the three nations since World War Two, analysts say.
The pact will focus on military capability, separating it from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance which also includes New Zealand and Canada.
While Australia’s submarines are tremendously crucial items, Aukus will also involve sharing of cyber capabilities, AI, quantum and other undersea technologies.
“This really shows that all three nations are drawing a line in the sand to start and counter [China’s] aggressive moves in the Indo-Pacific,” said Guy Boekenstein from the Asia Society Australia.
Why nuclear-powered submarines?
These submarines are much swifter and more difficult to identify than conventionally powered fleets. They can stay submerged for months, shoot missiles longer distances, and also carry more.
Having them stationed in Australia is critical to US influence in the region, analysts say.
The US is sharing its submarine technology for the first time in 50 years. It had previously only shared technology with the UK.
Australia will become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India, and Russia.
Its contract with France had been hit by delays due to Canberra’s requirement that several components be locally sourced.
Australia has asserted firmly that it has no intention of obtaining nuclear weapons.