The United States, Britain and Australia have announced a new Indo-Pacific security partnership, a move hailed by regional allies but denounced by China as an intensification of the arms race in the region. .
As part of the partnership, announced by President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and the ability to deploy sub -nuclear-powered navies.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back China’s growing power and influence, especially its military build-up, pressure on Taiwan, and deployments in the contested South China Sea.
The three leaders did not name China in Wednesday’s announcement, and senior officials in the Biden administration who briefed reporters in advance said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the trio “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.” .
Countries should not establish partnerships that target third countries, he said in a regular briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
“China will closely monitor developments. “
NUCLEAR ENERGY, NOT NUCLEAR WEAPONS
In a three-way virtual announcement, the leaders stressed that Australia would not deploy nuclear weapons but would use nuclear propulsion systems for ships, to guard against threats.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring long-term peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Biden said.
“We must be able to cope with both the current strategic environment in the region and its potential evolution, as the future of each of our nations and the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific,” sustainable and flourishing for decades to come. , ” he said.
Morrison said the submarines would be built in the city of Adelaide and Australia would meet all of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
James Clapper, former director of US national intelligence, told CNN that this was a bold step for Australia given its economy’s dependence on China, adding: “It is clear that the Chinese will see this as a provocation. “
Republican Senator Ben Sasse said the deal “sends a strong message of strength to President Xi.”
An official US briefing before the announcement said Biden did not mention the plans “in specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in an appeal last Thursday, but “underscored our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific ”.
US officials said nuclear propulsion would allow Australia’s navy to operate more silently, for longer periods of time, and deter the Indo-Pacific.
Officials said the partnership, dubbed AUKUS, would also involve cooperation in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum technology.
The partnership ends the 2016 agreement between Australia and the French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new fleet of submarines worth $ 40 billion to replace its older Collins submarines. decades, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters.
Naval Group said in a statement Australia’s decision was a major disappointment and the company would analyze the consequences of the decision.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly said the decision to exclude France showed a lack of consistency at a time when the two allies face common challenges in the region indo-pacific.
Biden said governments will now launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this program, from manpower to training requirements to production deadlines” and to ensure full compliance. non-proliferation commitments.
The pact is expected to be a boon to the US defense industry and among the companies that could benefit from it are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
General Dynamics’ Electric Boats business does much of the design work for US submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are manufactured by BWX Technologies Inc.
US officials have not given a timeline for when Australia will deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many will be built. They said that since Australia does not have a nuclear infrastructure, it would take a sustained effort over years.
UNIQUE TECHNOLOGY EXCHANGE
A US official said the announcement was the result of months of commitments from military and political leaders, during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – indicated it wanted to do more In the region.
“What we’ve heard in all of these conversations is Britain’s desire to dramatically step up its game in the Indo-Pacific,” the official said.
The US official said Washington had only shared nuclear propulsion technology once before – with Britain in 1958 – and added: “This is frankly an exception to our policy in many ways, I do not anticipate that this will be undertaken in other circumstances… We consider this to be a unique case. “
He said the United States plans to forge closer ties with its long-term allies Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines, and to engage more with new partners like India. and Vietnam.
The announcement came just over a week before Biden called a first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of the “Quad” – Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update bulletins are written by The Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. register today.