Washington: With an eye on countering China, Australia, the UK and US have announced the creation of an enhanced trilateral security partnership called ‘AUKUS’, and as a first step agreed to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
The alliance, focused on the Indo-Pacific region, was announced during a virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday.
AUKUS is aimed to deepen the diplomatic, security, and defence cooperation of the three countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including by working with partners, to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the White House said.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” said Biden, adding that the new alliance reflects a broader trend of key European partners playing a role in the Indo-Pacific. “We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve.”
Through AUKUS the three countries “will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defense interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties”.
It will enable deeper information and technology sharing, and foster deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains.
“And in particular, we will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities,” it said.
As the first initiative under AUKUS, the countries committed to support Australia in acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for the Royal Australian Navy.
The submarines will be built in Adelaide, Australia, in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States, Morrison said in his remarks.
“Over the next 18 months, we will work together to seek to determine the best way forward to achieve this. But let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability. And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations,” he added.
The development of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would be a joint endeavour between the three nations, with a focus on interoperability, commonality, and mutual benefit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the submarine project will draw on the expertise that the UK has acquired over generations and help create hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland, the north of England, and the Midlands.
“We will have a new opportunity to reinforce Britain’s place at the leading edge of science and technology, strengthening our national expertise,” he added.
The three nations also embarked on trilateral collaboration under AUKUS to enhance joint capabilities and interoperability – focusing on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.
According to the White House, “The endeavor we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”
“ For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity. Today, with the formation of AUKUS, we recommit ourselves to this vision,” it said.
Biden said the US “will also continue to work with ASEAN and the Quad, as was stated earlier; our five treaty allies and other close partners in the Indo-Pacific; as well as allies and partners in Europe and around the world to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, and build a future of peace, opportunity for all the people of the region.”
The announcement of the trilateral cooperation comes ahead of the September 24 Quad in-person meeting in Washington, where the leaders of India, the US, Japan and Australia will take forward their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.