Australia is buying US nuclear submarines in an ambitious new pact
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE – Australia will purchase up to five US nuclear-powered submarines and later build a new model using US and British technology as part of an ambitious plan to flex western muscles in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a to strengthen emerging China. a US official said on Monday.
President Joe Biden received his Australian and British counterparts, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, at a US naval base in San Diego, California, to announce the plan.
Australia, which joined the newly formed AUKUS group with Washington and London 18 months ago, will not get nuclear weapons. With nuclear propulsion, however, the new submarine fleet will add significant new strength to the western alliance trying to counter China’s own military expansion.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters flying to California on Air Force One that the submarine plan demonstrates Washington’s long-term commitment to maintaining “peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.
The partnership with Australia, sharing secret nuclear technology previously only given to Britain, is “a commitment that goes back decades, maybe centuries,” Sullivan said.
Three conventionally armed, nuclear-powered Virginia-class ships will be sold “throughout the 2030s,” with “the possibility of increasing to five if needed,” Sullivan said.
The new model, also nuclear-powered and carrying conventional weapons, is a longer-term project and will be called SSN-AUKUS, he said. It will be built to a British design using US technology and “significant investment across all three industrial bases,” Sullivan said.
– Defense spending increases –
While Australia has ruled out the use of nuclear weapons, its submarine plan marks a significant new phase in the US-led attempt to counter growing Chinese military power, including Beijing’s construction of a sophisticated naval fleet and the conversion of artificial islands into offshore bases .
Faced with the Chinese challenge – and Russia’s invasion of pro-western Ukraine – Britain is also scrambling to bolster its military capabilities, Sunak’s office said on Monday.
More than $6 billion in additional funding over the next two years will “replenish and strengthen vital munitions stocks, modernize Britain’s nuclear powerhouse and fund the next phase of the AUKUS submarine programme,” Downing Street said.
Australia was previously on track to replace its aging fleet of diesel-powered submarines with a $66 billion package of French ships, also conventionally powered.
Canberra’s abrupt announcement of exiting that deal and moving into the AUKUS project sparked a brief but unusually angry row between all three countries and their close ally France.
Compared to the Collins-class submarines that Australia plans to phase out, the Virginia-class is almost twice as long and has 132 crew members instead of 48.
China warned that AUKUS risks igniting an arms race and accused the three countries of rolling back their nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
“We call on the US, Britain and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, to honor international commitments in good faith and to do more things conducive to peace and stability in the region,” the spokeswoman said of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mao Ning, told reporters in Beijing.
The communist country’s leader, Xi Jinping, issued a fiery statement last week accusing the United States of leading a Western effort to “contain, encircle and suppress China on all sides.”
But Washington says Beijing is alarming countries across the Asia-Pacific region with its threats to invade Taiwan’s self-governing democracy and highlights the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch