China has denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries, and warned of an intensified arms race in the region.
Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to respond to China’s growing power and influence, particularly the military buildup, pressure on Taiwan, and deployments in the disputed South China Sea.
US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint declaration and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters early on, said the partnership was not intended to counter Beijing.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries “severely harm regional peace and stability, intensify the arms race, and harm international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.”
“China has always believed that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation…and should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular press conference in Beijing. .
Johnson said the deal was not intended to be an adversary and said it would cut costs for Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.
“Now that we have AUKUS in place, we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defense systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and subsea capabilities,” Johnson told Parliament.
The three leaders emphasized that Australia would not deploy nuclear weapons but would use nuclear propulsion systems for ships to protect against threats.
Biden said: “We are all aware of the need to ensure long-term peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”
“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region, and how it might evolve because the future of each of our nations, and indeed the world, depends on the freedom and openness of the Indo-Pacific region and prosperity in the coming decades,” he said.
Morrison said Australia would fulfill all of its non-proliferation obligations.
One US official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – signaled its desire to do more in the region.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed into its territorial waters.
Singapore said it has long-standing ties with Australia, Britain and the United States and hopes their gathering will contribute to peace and stability.
Japan said strengthening the security and defense cooperation of the three countries is important to peace and security.
A US official briefing before the announcement said Biden did not mention the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday, but “emphasized our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific.”
US officials said the nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
A Morrison spokesman told Reuters the partnership ends Australia’s 2016 agreement with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new $40 billion submarine fleet to replace the more than two-decade-old Collins submarines.
France accused Biden of stabbing her in the back and behaving like his predecessor Donald Trump https://www.reuters.com/world/us-move-dislodge-france-australia-submarine-deal-is-incoherent-french-ministers- 2021-09-15 .
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me very much of what Mr. Trump was doing,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio. “I am angry and bitter. This does not happen between allies.”
Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to define every element of this program, from workforce, to training requirements, to production schedules” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.
Among the US companies that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp. and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
General Dynamics’ electric boat business does much of the design work for American submarines, but important subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc.
US officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built. Since Australia does not have any nuclear infrastructure, they said, this would require a sustained effort over years.
A US official said Washington had only shared nuclear propulsion technology once before – with Britain in 1958.
“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects. I wouldn’t expect it to be done in other circumstances… We’re looking at this as a one-off.”
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