In a historic development and a game-changer, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia on Wednesday announced a trilateral security partnership that will enable Canberra to deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Indo-Pacific in a major challenge to China and its claims in the region. Under the so-called ‘AUKUS’ – Australia, UK and US – alliance, the three nations have agreed to enhance the development of joint capabilities and technology sharing, foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison issued a joint statement on the launch of the new security partnership. “As the first initiative under Aukus… we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. This capability will promote stability in the Indo-Pacific and will be deployed in support of our shared values and interests”, the statement said. The leaders said the aim was to “bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date”, adding: “Australia remains committed to fulfilling all of its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state.” It went on to say that the defence pact would also focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and “additional undersea capabilities”. The leaders also made it clear that the new alliance does not and will not supersede or outrank existing arrangements in the Indo-Pacific region such as the Quad, which the US and Australia form with India and Japan, and Asean, and that it will compliment these groups and others.
The partnership will enable Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time. The pact will also cover artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and cyber. The three countries are worried about China’s growing power and military presence in the Indo-Pacific. As a result of the pact, Australia has scrapped a deal to build French-designed submarines.