ISLAMABAD: The United States announced a new alliance Wednesday with Australia and Britain to strengthen military capabilities in the face of a rising China, with Canberra to get a nuclear submarine fleet and American cruise missiles.
President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson did not mention China in unveiling their alliance, dubbed AUKUS — but their intent was clear, and their announcement prompted fury in Beijing.
China condemned the deal as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to stability in the region. The agreement also left Paris furious, as Australia scrapped a multi-billion-dollar 2016 deal to purchase conventional submarines from France.
“This initiative is about making sure that each of us has a modern capability — the most modern capabilities we need — to manoeuvre and defend against rapidly evolving threats,” Biden said, speaking in Washington.
Morrison said the three nations all respected “freedom” and “the rule of law”, and that the alliance would help ensure security in the region. The Western allies often reference the rule of law and freedoms when railing against China’s military build-up in the South China Sea. The first major initiative announced under the new alliance was the fleet of eight state-of-the-art nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
The submarines, said Biden and the other leaders, will not be nuclear-armed, only powered with nuclear reactors. But they will allow Australia´s military to travel, and strike targets, far from its coast.
“(They) are quieter, faster and have longer endurance, which will allow Australia to deploy its future submarines to Indo-Pacific locations for much longer periods of time,” Ashley Townshend of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, told AFP. In addition to the submarine fleet, a senior Biden administration official said AUKUS would combine forces on “cyber, AI — particularly applied AI — quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well”.