The United States, United Kingdom and Australia forge a new defense pact intended to contain China’s military might in the Indo-Pacific.
The pact, dubbed AUKUS after the initials of the three countries, does not include Canada, suggesting that Ottawa could miss out on intelligence sharing between some of its closest allies.
The deal will see countries share more military technology and information than they currently do, some of which is related to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber capabilities. The first project of AUKUS will be to build a fleet of nuclear submarines for Australia.
“We have always believed in a world that promotes freedom, that respects human dignity, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states and the peaceful communion of nations,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who unveiled the agreement in a video. link Wednesday afternoon press conference with President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The three countries, along with Canada and New Zealand, already share foreign intelligence through the Five Eyes partnership. It was not immediately clear whether the new alliance would serve only as a vehicle for Australia to engage in additional defense projects with other countries, or whether the pact would supplant some of the work of the Five Eyes.
The United States has repeatedly warned that it will stop sharing intelligence with countries that are not tough enough on China.
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A Canadian official said AUKUS was only aimed at helping Australia build submarines and Canada would not get less intelligence information from other countries. The Globe does not name the responsible because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Daniel Minden, spokesperson for Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, said Ottawa had been kept informed of talks between the UKUS countries. Mr Sajjan held talks with his British and Australian counterparts on Wednesday, Mr Minden said, and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau held talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Canada continues to work with its Five Eyes partners on defense technology and research to strengthen our partnership. We will continue to build on the existing collaboration with our allies, ”Minden wrote in an email.
Eric Miller, a political and trade consultant specializing in Canada-U.S. Affairs, said the deal represents an alliance between countries more willing than Canada to confront China. He said the pact could represent a “three-eyed” subset of the larger partnership.
“Those in the world of” we have to face China directly and use all our strengths and resources to do so, “they are basically moving forward,” he said.
Canada, for example, is the only Five Eyes not to have banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G network. Intelligence experts fear the Chinese company will use this access to collect sensitive information and pass it on to Beijing spy agencies.
The United States and Australia are both currently locked in trade wars with China. Canberra is feuding with Beijing over Australian requests to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK, meanwhile, is in a diplomatic dispute over sanctions China has imposed on British lawmakers for criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. In response, the British parliament banned the Chinese ambassador from attending an event.
Washington first threatened to exclude Canada from intelligence sharing in 2019, unless Ottawa acts against Huawei. Mike Pompeo, then secretary of state, told Fox Business that “we will not be able to share information” or “work alongside” countries that allow Huawei access to their 5G networks.
The Canadian government has said for three years that it has been trying to decide what to do about Huawei. Ottawa has yet to make a decision.
At least part of the block is aimed at mitigating Chinese retaliation against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadian citizens arrested in China after Ottawa served a US arrest warrant against Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, Mr. Miller. Canada is also reluctant to jeopardize commercial interests in China, which include export markets for canola, pork and seafood.
“Canada has not really made a choice about its position vis-à-vis China. For a long time, the attitude has been, ‘We will focus on economic relations with China, and security relations with the United States will not be affected,’ ”Miller said. “Canada must now choose between its economic interests and its security interests.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office did not respond to questions about AUKUS, including his involvement in the pact talks, or whether he had applied or wanted to join in the future. Alex Wellstead, spokesperson for Mr. Trudeau, referred The Globe and Mail to the government’s Foreign Office. The ministry did not respond to questions on time.
For now, the UKUS leaders said, they are focusing on submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines would allow Australia to undertake longer, more stealthy patrols, as they don’t need to surface as often as conventional submarines. The new submarines would use nuclear power, but would not be armed with nuclear weapons.
“The future of each of our nations, and indeed of the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Mr. Biden. “It’s about investing in our greatest source of strength – our alliances – and updating them. “
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