The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom on Monday (March 13, 2023) unveiled details of a plan to supply Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
U.S. President Joe Biden, accompanied by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, spoke at a ceremony at the U.S. Naval Base in San Diego, California. Biden said the 2021 Australia-UK-U.S. Trilateral Security Agreement (AUKUS) is part of a shared commitment by the U.S. and two of its “strongest and most capable allies” to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
Sunak called the agreement a “strong partnership”, adding: “For the first time in history, three submarine fleets will work together in the Atlantic and Pacific to preserve the freedom of the seas for decades to come. .”
Under the agreement, the United States intends to sell Australia three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines built by General Dynamics in the early 2030s, with Australia having the option to purchase additional ones if needed, the joint statement said two.
The multi-phase project will culminate in a new class of submarine, SSN-AUKUS, produced and operated by the UK and Australia, the statement said. The submarines will be based on British-designed hulls, using “state-of-the-art” American technology, jointly developed by the three parties, and will be built in the UK and Australia.
The UK will receive its first SSN-AUKUS class submarine in the late 2030s and Australia in the early 2040s.
“The AUKUS agreement we confirmed here in San Diego represents the largest single investment in Australia’s defense capabilities in our history to strengthen Australia’s security and stability in the region,” Australian Prime Minister Albanese said at the ceremony.
AUKUS will be Washington’s first since sharing “nuclear propulsion technology” with the UK in the 1950s.
Biden emphasized that the submarines are nuclear-powered and not nuclear-armed, saying: “These submarines will not have any type of nuclear weapon on board.”
But the deal has created an enormous bill for Australia, with costs estimated at A$368 billion (about $245 billion) by 2055.
Albanese explained this. “This is not just a defense and security plan, it’s an economic plan,” he said.
He expects AUKUS to invest A$6 billion in Australia’s industrial capacity over the next four years and create about 20,000 direct jobs over the next 30 years, with an economic benefit of about 0.15 per cent of annual GDP.
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles (Richard Marles) said, “This is an investment in national security” and “an investment we cannot afford to make.”
China denounces AUKUS as an illegal nuclear proliferation act. China’s permanent mission to the United Nations (Chinese Mission to the UN), tweeted after the plan was announced that it “poses a serious nuclear proliferation risk, undermines the international non-proliferation system, fuels an arms race, and damages peace and stability.”
Biden said on Monday that the United States, Britain and Australia will strictly fulfill their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, saying that the relevant plan has been recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Asked whether he was concerned that China would view the AUKUS submarine deal as aggression, Biden replied “no.” He said he expected to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon, but did not specify when.
Source: VOA Chinese