Australia equips itself with US nuclear submarines to stop China

Australia equips itself with US nuclear submarines

Australia will modernize its military fleet with nuclear-powered war submarines that it purchases from the United States, the White House announced Monday. Both countries thus reinforce an alliance to which the United Kingdom joins, aimed at containing the growing expansionism of China in Asian waters. Australia had arranged these types of submarines with France, but in 2021 the White House maneuvered to place its own, implying that alliances to contain China prevail today over harmony with European partners.

The meeting this Monday in San Diego, on the Pacific coast, between President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak formalized this new trilateral security alliance that covers areas such as cyber security, space technology, artificial intelligence and submarine development. The alliance is known in Washington as Aukus, an acronym formed from the first English letters of the names of the three countries that are part of the alliance: Australia (A), the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).

In a speech alongside his counterparts, President Biden said: “America. You cannot ask for better partners in the Indo-Pacific, where much of our common future will be written.” For his part, Sunak took direct aim at the joint threat: “China’s growing assertiveness, Iran’s and North Korea’s destabilizing behavior threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division… Faced with this new reality, it is more important than ever that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries.”

Australia will thus equip itself with three Virginia-class US submarines, which will be expanded to five. The first three, with permission from the US legislature, will be manufactured in the US and delivered in the 2030s. Of the other two, one will be made in the UK and the other in Australia, with a delivery date of around 2040. The submarines receive the name of SSN-Aukus.

The model on which it is based has been marketed by General Dynamics for the US Navy since 2004 and is considered the most advanced submersible in the world in its category. It has been designed to operate in coastal or deep waters, it has an advanced nuclear propulsion system and in this case, it will have conventional weapons.

As Ned Price, a spokesman for US diplomacy, states, when the Aukus deal was announced in September 2021, it was agreed to provide Australia with “a model conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarine to deliver that capability to Australia at the earliest possible date.” possible and, critically, in a way that meets the highest nuclear nonproliferation standards possible.” The secretly negotiated deal saw the Australian government cancel a $66 billion (€61 billion) contract for a fleet of French-made conventional submarines, sparking a rare diplomatic clash between Washington and Paris.

As part of Prime Minister Sunak’s visit to the US, the British government also announced Monday that it plans to increase its defense budget by some $6 billion over the next two years, mainly to replenish depleted ammunition reserves. for his contributions to the war effort in Ukraine. In addition, the United Kingdom committed to raising its defense spending to 2.5% of GDP. The commitment of the NATO partners is to reach 2%, something that today only Greece, the US, Poland, the Baltic states, the United Kingdom, Croatia and Slovakia do.

China, for its part, has responded that the Aukus agreement violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international agreement signed in 1968 with the aim of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The US, Russia, China, France and the UK are the nuclear weapon states that have ratified the treaty. The others, Australia among them, pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons. Australian authorities have rebutted the criticism, arguing that they are working to acquire nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed, submarines.

According to the three allied countries in a statement provided by the White House, “Australia does not intend and will not attempt to acquire nuclear weapons; It will not enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel as part of this program, nor will it produce its own nuclear fuel for its submarines.”

The UK and US will provide Australia with the nuclear material in complete, welded units that will not require replenishment during their lifetime.