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US builds bulwark against China with UK-Australia security pact

US international coverage updates

The US has launched a brand new trilateral security partnership with London and Canberra that can allow Australia to construct a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, a transfer that can strengthen the allies’ skill to counter China.

President Joe Biden introduced the trouble, which is designed to bolster alliances amid rising tensions with China over disputes starting from the South China Sea to Taiwan, in a digital occasion on Wednesday night with British prime minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

Biden stated the initiative, together with the submarine plan, was crucial to make sure the nations had one of the best know-how to “defend against rapidly evolving threats”, in rhetoric that seemed to be aimed toward Beijing.

“Our nations . . . have stood shoulder to shoulder for literally more than 100 years,” Biden stated. “Today we’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalise co-operation . . . because we all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

A senior US official stated that whereas Australia would purchase nuclear-propulsion know-how — which the US has solely shared with the UK — Canberra wouldn’t develop nuclear weapons. Biden additionally careworn that the submarines wouldn’t be armed with nuclear weapons.

The US official stated the vessels would enhance Australian naval capabilities as a result of they have been quicker and extra stealthy than typical submarines. The submarines may function farther from Australia, together with within the South China Sea, and don’t have to floor as steadily.

US president Joe Biden, centre, within the East Room of the White House, with the prime ministers of Australia and the UK on video hyperlink — Scott Morrison on the left display and Boris Johnson on the appropriate. © Oliver Contreras/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Morrison stated the allies needed to elevate their partnership to a “new level” due to the more and more complicated setting in Asia, one other thinly veiled reference to China. Johnson stated they have been “opening a new chapter” and would work “hand in glove to preserve security and stability” in Asia. 

The leaders stated that along with serving to Australia construct a nuclear-powered submarine power, they’d additionally enhance co-operation in areas akin to cyber security, synthetic intelligence, and quantum computing.

One British official stated the alliance would deal with maritime and defence know-how, in distinction to the “Five Eyes” association by which the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada share intelligence.

The US official stated Biden didn’t inform China’s Xi Jinping in regards to the initiative when the 2 leaders spoke final week. The new partnership — dubbed AUKUS — was fashioned one week earlier than Biden is because of host the leaders of Japan, India and Australia for the primary in-person summit of the “Quad”. The Quad security grouping can be designed to counter China and has been described by Beijing as an “Asian Nato”.

Kori Schake, head of international and defence coverage on the American Enterprise Institute, stated Wednesday’s deal would ship a robust sign to Beijing.

“It strikes me as an elegant message, a reminder to China that Australia has the technological capabilities and alliance relationships that they could become a nuclear power if the threat China poses becomes so severe”, Schake stated. “It [is] also . . . a good moment for the Biden administration to demonstrate its commitment to the security of its allies after the debacle of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Australian media stated Canberra would finish an current $90bn programme to purchase 12 French-designed typical submarines. The official stated the allies would determine over the following 18 months methods to construct the fleet.

“This is a fundamental decision that binds decisively Australia and the United States and Great Britain for generations,” the US official stated.

Richard Fontaine, head of the Center for a New American Security, stated the submarines have been a “big deal” that will not solely give Australia higher capabilities however would assist Washington, significantly amid criticism that China is outpacing the US in constructing navy ships and submarines.

“The real measure of comparison is not China on one side and the US on the other. It’s China on the one side with the US and its allies on the other,” stated Fontaine.

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo and Laura Hughes on Twitter

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