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Sunday October 24, 2021

UK, US, Australia launch security pact to counter Beijing

September 16, 2021
UK, US, Australia launch security pact to counter Beijing

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden unveiled Wednesday a new effort to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, a major step toward countering China as he works to build international backing for his approach to Beijing.

The announcement came as part of a new trilateral partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. It came a week before a meeting of Quad leaders in Washington, DC.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison issued a joint statement on the launch of the new security partnership.”As the first initiative under Aukus... we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy,” the statement said. “This capability will promote stability in the Indo-Pacific and will be deployed in support of our shared values and interests,” it said. The leaders said the aim was to “bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date”, adding: “Australia remains committed to fulfilling all of its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state.”

The UK government says this is a very significant defence agreement. A point reinforced by the fact that the leaders of Britain, the United States and Australia have appeared together by video conference to announce this partnership. It also underlines the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region to both the US and the UK. Johnson said the three nations were natural allies and that the alliance would “bring us closer than ever”.

The joint statement said the Indo-Pacific was a region with potential flashpoints, including unresolved territorial disputes, threats from terrorism and a problem with organised crime. “It is on the frontline of new security challenges, including in cyberspace,” it said.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the three-way partnership, dubbed AUKUS, is a “historic” new piece in Washington’s growing focus on the region, where China is challenging decades of US leadership and naval dominance. What the Biden administration official called an alliance of “maritime democracies” will combine the three countries’ forces on “cyber, AI — particularly applied AI, quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well.” AUKUS’ first initiative, however, will be “to support Australia’s desire to acquire nuclear powered submarines,” the official said, stressing this does not mean nuclear weapons.