On Wednesday, the President of the United States Joe Biden revealed his plan to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, a key move toward countering rival China as the president works to build international support for his approach to China. The announcement from Biden came as part of a new three-sided partnership among the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia that the leaders of three nations mutually revealed Wednesday afternoon.
President Biden – appearing with Australian and UK prime ministers virtually – announces new trilateral agreement to help Australia acquire nuclear powered submarines in an apparent challenge to China’s activities pic.twitter.com/I3g1tMjJPM
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) September 15, 2021
Biden said that the U.S., the U.K., and Australia have long been capable and faithful allies. Further, he added that they took another historic step to formalize and expand cooperation among all three countries because they all recognize the imperative of guaranteeing stability and peace in the Ind-Pacific region over the long term. The alliance triggered what was expected as an outbreak of diplomatic engagements for the U.S. president this autumn, from the United Nations (UN) next week’s meetings to a White House summit of Asian leaders to October’s group of twenty talks in Italy.
Behind his efforts is a struggle to gather the United States and West partners in Asia in the fight between dictatorship versus democracy, one of the significant aims of his presidency. In addition, the U.S. president made countering China a central feature of his foreign policy as tensions intensified over Taiwan and the South China Sea and said he wants U.S. allies on board.
The new alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia – three English-speaking naval democracies – is not specifically about China, officials insisted before the announcement. Instead, they expressed the three nations would hold a schedule of meetings over the upcoming months to harmonize and settle on cyber issues, defense, and advanced technologies to meet the latest security challenges better. Additionally, they named the new partnership as AUKUS and pronounced it as aw-kiss.
The initiative to build nuclear submarine capability in Australia will allow the nation to uniformly operate at a much advanced level. Moreover, nuclear submarines have the ability to move at higher speeds, stealthily and strength, than conventional ones, which must surface more often. As a result, a senior administration official said before the announcement, allowing Australia to combat at a much better level and expand U.S. capabilities. Further, he added that it is about maintaining peace and stability in the region.
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Australian top officials were also in Washington for the Wednesday meeting with their counterparts, including U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The American president announced that Austin would lead efforts for the United States government in deep collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and the State Department.
U.S. officials said the further details of the new alliance were held closely during their development over the past weeks and months, but government stakeholders and other allies would brief on the particulars in the coming days. Furthermore, the United Kingdom United States plans to dispatch strategic and technical teams to classify the best way for Australia to obtain nuclear submarines over the next eighteen months. However, the new plan will mean withdrawing a ninety billion dollars deal Australia already made with France for conservative submarines.
The decision sparked tensions between Australia and New Zealand, with Jacinda Ardern, the NZ Prime Minister, issuing a statement on Thursday saying Canberra’s nuclear-powered submarines would ban the country’s waters. In a statement to CNN, Ardern’s office said that the position of New Zealand in relation to the ban of nuclear-powered vessels in the country’s waters remains unchanged. The statement added that they welcomed increased engagement by the United States and the United Kingdom in the Asia Pacific region.