US President Joe Biden hosted Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego on Monday to announce details of a plan to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
It comes amid growing concerns about China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
Monday’s plan represents the first project of the joint AUKUS security alliance first announced in 2021. It provides Australia with three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines.
The multi-stage project would culminate with British and Australian production and operation of a new class of submarine — a “trilaterally developed” vessel based on Britain’s next-generation design that would be built in Britain and Australia and include “cutting edge” US technology.
Biden said it was part of the alliance’s, “shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The agreement will also see a force of US and British submarines deployed in Australia, to help train Australian crews and bolster deterrence.
Sunak says the partnership will eventually lead to the UK Royal Navy operating the same submarines as the Australian Navy, boats that will share the same components and parts as the US Navy.
According to China, AUKUS violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Beijing has argued the transfer of nuclear weapons materials from a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear-weapon state was a “blatant” violation of the spirit of the pact.
Currently, no party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty other than the five countries the NPT recognizes as weapons states — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — has nuclear submarines.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing: “We urge the US, the UK and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, honor international obligations in good faith and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability.”
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