AUKUS Defence Pact Between US, Britain & Australia

AUKUS was announced by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australia’s Scott Morrison on Wednesday 15th September. The new security partnership is one of the most  significant  international agreements since the end of the Cold War.  

While they did not mention China, AUKUS is being widely viewed as an effort to counter Chinese influence in the South China Sea. The pact, which will also see the allies share cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and quantum  technologies, is a major strategic shift and is clearly an effort to counter China that will see the US and UK give Australia the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The Chines government reacted swiftly to denounce the technology-sharing pact  as a threat to peace in the Indo-Pacific region. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception” that "intensified" a regional arms race and harmed international non-proliferation efforts. Some Australian strategists and politicians also share similar concerns and New Zealand, another member of the Five Eyes Alliance, is also aware of the danger from the new AUKUS pact and wants to stay away from it, especially Australian nuclear submarines. 

It means Australia will become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines and the pact has raised fears that it could provoke China to armed conflict, although  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament that the agreement was "not intended to be adversarial" to China. It now seems likely that Britain will establish a more fixed presence in the Indo-Pacific under the auspices of AUKUS that might include basing British nuclear submarines in Australia or embedding British armed forces in the region. 

Chinese military experts warned that such a move will potentially make Australia a target of a nuclear strike if a nuclear war breaks out even although the US has said it won't arm Australia with nuclear weapons. “Through AUKUS our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defense interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties. We will promote deeper information and technology sharing.... We will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defence capabilities,” says the US Government statement.

“A landmark defence and security partnership has been agreed by the leaders of the UK, the United States and Australia today which will protect and defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific... 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.”says a British government statement.

But  the US and UK are now facing growing international criticism over AUKUS and it is thought that Australia could now be a nuclear strike target by China following this security agreement and France is angered by Australia’s decision to cancel plans to buy a French-built fleet of submarines.  

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has voiced criticism over the new trilateral agreement, which will see nuclear submarines built in Adelaide via a knowledge sharing and cyber security arrangement.

Meanwhile Washington has sought to address French anger over the loss of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal France had signed with Australia. France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the announcement a "stab in the back" and French diplomats cancelled a gala event in Washington celebrating historic ties between the US and France.

The White House:   Global Times:   Gov.UK:      Politico:    Defence Connect:   ASPI Strategist:

BBC:        Guardian:       Telegraph:        Independent:   

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