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The three countries unveil new security partnership dubbed AUKUS in apparent push against China.
Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have announced a new trilateral security partnership, including a joint effort to help the Australian military acquire nuclear-powered submarines, in an apparent push to counter China.
The leaders of all three countries unveiled the alliance, dubbed AUKUS, on Wednesday, stressing that the submarines would be nuclear powered, not carrying nuclear weapons.
Australia is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden said the three nations were taking a “historic step” to deepen their cooperation.
“We all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said from the White House.
“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.”
The three leaders did not mention China explicitly in their remarks on Wednesday.
Shortly after the announcement, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, said the three countries should “shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”, the Wall Street Journal and the Reuters news agency reported.
The spokesman denounced what he called “exclusionary blocs” targeting the interests of other countries.
‘Safe, more secure’
Morrison, the Australian premier, said the newly announced partnership would “deliver a safer and more secure region” that ultimately benefits all.
“Let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” he added. “And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”
Morrison also said Australia intends to build submarines in Adelaide, on the country’s southern coast, in cooperation with the UK and the US.
The announcement comes amid growing competition between Beijing and Washington and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
Johnson said the collaborative push to produce nuclear-powered submarines for Australia will be one of the “most complex and technically demanding projects in the world”.
“Australia is one of our oldest friends, a kindred nation and a fellow democracy and a natural partner in this enterprise,” Johnson said.
An unidentified US official told reporters on Wednesday that AUKUS is “not aimed at any one country”.
“This is about a larger effort to sustain the fabric of engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific,” the official said.
A joint statement by the three nations said the US and the UK would use their expertise to produce the submarines for Australia at the earliest date possible.
“We will promote deeper information and technology sharing,” the statement said. “We will foster deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities.”