The US, UK, and Australia have disclosed information regarding their plan to assemble a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to counter China’s sway in the Indo-Pacific region. As part of the Aukus pact, Australia will receive a minimum of three nuclear-powered subs from the US. Additionally, the allies are planning to build a new fleet with innovative technology, including nuclear reactors made in the UK by Rolls-Royce. China has expressed its dissent towards the naval agreement. Its Foreign Ministry has asserted that the three countries are “making strides down the road of mistake and peril”. China’s UN mission has also argued that the pact between the Western allies would set back efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. In response, US President Joe Biden has stated that the submarines will not be armed with nuclear weapons. He has stated that the deal is meant to boost peace in the region.
Aukus Summit: Projecting Power and Establishing Collaborative Intent
Speaking alongside the UK and Australian Prime Ministers, Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, at San Diego, California, Mr Biden emphasized that the agreement would not affect Australia’s commitment to remaining a nuclear-power-free nation. The agreement allows Australia to become the second nation, after the UK, to obtain access to Washington’s most advanced nuclear propulsion technology. The submarines they will be able to utilize will be able to travel further and faster than the diesel-engine fleet they currently operate, and will enable Australia to use long-range strikes against adversaries for the first time. From this year, Australian sailors will be sent to both US and UK submarine bases to be trained on how to operate the nuclear-propelled vessels. From 2027, the US and UK will station a small quantity of nuclear submarines in Perth, Western Australia, before Canberra procures three Virginia-class submarines of US model in the early 2030s – with potential for an additional two. Subsequently, the intention is to design and construct a completely new nuclear-powered submarine, referred to as SSN-AUKUS, for the navies of the UK and Australia. This attack craft is to be made in Britain and Australia to a British blueprint, but employing technology from all three nations. President Biden declared that the three countries are resolute in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region. He remarked, “Through this new partnership, we are exemplifying how democracies can guarantee their own safety and success, not exclusively for us, but for the entire world”.Additionally, Biden promised to provide $4.6 billion (£3.7 billion) to augment the U.S.’s nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines’ production and repairs. Australia’s Prime Minister remarked that this plan, which is expected to cost up to A$368 billion (£201 billion) in thirty years, is the “greatest single investment in the defense of Australia of all time”. He further noted that crafting the submarines in Australia would create thousands of jobs in the country. The British Prime Minister also stated that the endeavor would create thousands of jobs in Derby and Barrow-in-Furness, where part of the production will be conducted. Since the Aukus alliance was unveiled 18 months ago, the challenges to global stability have only intensified. Notable examples include Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s
growing assertiveness, and the destabilising behaviour of Iran and North Korea.In response to this, Mr Sunak has pledged to increase defence spending by nearly £5bn ($6bn) over the next two years to counter threats from hostile states. The security pact was announced in September 2021, and has been met with criticism from Beijing. The Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly asserted that the agreement could lead to an arms race. However, the three Western countries have stated that the alliance is designed to promote stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The three leaders have also highlighted how the deal will strengthen their co-operation. Nonetheless, it has had political ramifications. In 2021, Australia chose to end its multi-million dollar contract with France for diesel-powered submarines, opting instead for a trilateral agreement – resulting in a strained political relationship with Paris. At the same time, the nation is facing a precarious diplomatic situation with China, its largest trading partner. Analysts are concerned with how Australia will be able to strengthen its military ties with the United States while still encouraging commercial ties with Beijing.