US, UK, Australia agree on “nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed” submarine project
The leaders of the US, UK, and Australia have announced new details of their plan to create a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines using cutting-edge technology.
Speaking with the other leaders in California, US President Joe Biden underscored that the boats would be “nuclear-powered and not nuclear-armed” and would not threaten Australia’s commitment to being a nuclear-free nation.
From this year, under the Aukus agreement, in order to gain the necessary skills to use the subs, members of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) will be embedded at US and UK submarine bases. Thereafter, Australia will receive at least three nuclear-powered American Virginia-class submarines.
The allies have also decided to work together to build an entirely new fleet using technology from all three countries, including reactors made by Rolls-Royce in the UK.
The pact aims to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. President Biden, flanked by the prime ministers of the UK and Australia – Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, respectively, highlighted their commitment to ensuring the region remains free and open.
The pact has repeatedly drawn flak from China. Even last week, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning highlighted the Asian country’s position that the agreement “undermines peace and stability” and risked creating an arms race, urging the three countries to “abandon the Cold War mentality”.
Although Albanese hailed the deal’s strategic importance as well as the fact that it will create scores of new jobs, Australia possibly faces some very delicate diplomacy going forward.
Australia counts China as one of its most important trading partners. Therefore, the looming question now is whether it can bolster its military ties with Washington, while fostering greater commercial relations with Beijing.