What is AUKUS? US, UK and Australia form new military alliance
President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia that will allow greater sharing of defense capabilities – including helping Australia to equip the Australia’s nuclear powered submarines. It’s a move that could deepen a growing chasm in US-China relations.
Mr Biden made the announcement alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined him by video to unveil the new alliance, which will be called AUKUS (pronounced AWK-us). The three said they would quickly turn their attention to developing nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
“We all recognize the imperative to ensure long-term peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” said Biden, who said the new alliance reflects a broader trend of key European partners playing a role in the Indo-Pacific. “We need to be able to cope with both the current strategic environment in the region and its potential evolution. “
None of the leaders mentioned China in their remarks. But the new security alliance will likely be seen as a provocation by Beijing, which has repeatedly attacked Biden as it sought to refocus U.S. foreign policy on the Pacific early in its presidency.
Ahead of the announcement, a senior administration official sought to play down the notion that the alliance was meant to serve as a deterrent against China in the region. The official, who requested anonymity to preview the announcement, said the alliance’s formation did not target any country and was about a larger effort to support engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific by the Indo-Pacific. three nations.
Mr Johnson said the alliance would allow the three English-speaking maritime democracies to strengthen their ties and focus more on an increasingly complicated part of the world.
“We will have a new opportunity to strengthen Britain’s place at the forefront of science and technology, by strengthening our national expertise, and perhaps most importantly, the UK, Australia and the United States will be even more closely linked, ”Mr Johnson said. noted.
The three countries agreed to share information in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and underwater defense capabilities.
But plans to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines will certainly catch Beijing’s attention. To date, the only country the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with is Britain. Mr Morrison said Australia was not looking to develop a nuclear weapons program and that information sharing would be limited to helping it develop a fleet of submarines.
The Australian Prime Minister said plans for the nuclear-powered submarines would be drawn up over the next 18 months and the ships would be built in Adelaide, Australia.
Australia announced in 2016 that French company DCNS had beaten bidders from Japan and Germany to build the next generation of submarines in Australia’s largest defense contract ever.
Senior French officials have made it clear that they are not happy with the deal, which undermines the DCNS deal.
“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are faced with unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism. founded on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only observe and regret, ”said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly in a joint press release.
Mr Morrison said the three countries have “always seen through a similar lens” but, as the world becomes more complex, “to meet these new challenges, to help ensure the security and stability that our region has need, we must now take our partnership to a new level.
Matt Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, said equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines was an important step that would help the United States and its allies on the military fronts and diplomatic.
Underwater warfare capabilities have been Beijing’s “Achilles heel”, Pottinger said. A fleet of nuclear-powered submarines would allow Australia to conduct longer patrols, giving the new alliance a stronger presence in the region.
“When you have a strong military, it provides a backdrop of deterrence that gives countries the confidence to resist bullying,” said Pottinger, who is now a visiting scholar at the University’s Hoover Institution. from Stanford. “Part of the problem right now is that Beijing has become rather arrogant and is less willing to engage productively in diplomacy.”
The announcement of the new security alliance comes as US-China relations have deteriorated. Beijing has opposed Biden administration officials repeatedly calling on China for human rights abuses in Xianjing province, crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and cybersecurity violations from China, as well as Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has called “coercive and unfair” business practices.
Even though White House officials have spoken about China on several occasions, administration officials say they want to work with Beijing in areas of common interest, including fighting the pandemic and climate change.
Mr Biden spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week amid growing frustration on the US side that the high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers was largely unsuccessful.
After the 90-minute phone call, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi expressed concern that the US government’s policy towards China has caused “serious hardship” in the countries. relationships.
Asked Tuesday about media reports that Xi had refused to commit to meeting him in person, the US president said that was “false.” Biden did not speak in “specific terms” of the new AUKUS alliance during last week’s appeal with the Chinese leader, according to the senior administration official.
The United States and Australia, along with India and Japan, are members of a strategic dialogue known as the “Quad”. Mr Biden is expected to welcome other Quad leaders to the White House next week.
Mr Biden sought to rally allies to speak with a more unified voice on China and tried to send the message that he would take a drastically different approach than former President Donald Trump, who placed the trade and economic issues above all the US-China relationship.
In June, at Mr. Biden’s request, the Group of Seven called on China to respect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province and allow a full investigation into the origins of COVID-19. While the allies largely agreed to work to compete with China, there was less unity on how a competing public position should be taken by the group.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.