The United States, the U.k., and Australia have unveiled a new Indo-Pacific security pact, which has been lauded by regional allies but criticized by China as escalating the region’s arms race.
The United States and Britain will give Australia the technology and capabilities to deploy nuclear-powered submarines under the alliance announced by President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The US and its allies are looking for strategies to counter China’s expanding power and influence, including military buildups, pressure on Taiwan, and deployments in the disputed South China Sea.
In their statement on Wednesday, the three leaders did not mention China by name, and top Biden administration officials who briefed media ahead of the time insisted the relationship was not intended to oppose Beijing.
However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the trio was “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.He told a regular conference in Beijing on Thursday that governments should not form relationships with third countries.
In a three-way virtual statement, the leaders emphasized that Australia will not deploy nuclear weapons, but will instead use nuclear propulsion systems on its ships to counter threats.” We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” said Biden.
“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said. Morrison stated that the submarines would be built in Adelaide and that Australia would fulfill all of its nuclear non-proliferation commitments.
James Clapper a former director of U.S. national intelligence, told CNN it was a bold step by Australia given its economy’s dependence on China, adding: “Clearly the Chinese will view this as provocative.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse said the agreement “sends a clear message of strength to Chairman Xi.”
Nuclear propulsion, according to US sources, would allow the Australian navy to operate more silently for extended periods of time while also providing a deterrent across the Indo-Pacific. Officials claimed the AUKUS alliance will include collaboration in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.