SAN DIEGO: The United States and Britain unveiled details of a plan on Monday to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

Addressing a ceremony at the US naval base in San Diego, accompanied by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden called the agreement under the 2021 Aukus partnership part of a shared commitment to a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region with two of America’s “most stalwart and capable allies”. Sunak called it “a powerful partnership”, adding: “For the first time ever it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across the Atlantic and Pacific keeping our oceans free ... for decades to come”.

China condemned the deal as an illegal act of nuclear proliferation. The plan “constitutes serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines international non-proliferation system, fuels arms races, and hurts peace and stability,” Beijing’s permanent mission to the United Nations said in a tweet after the announcement.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing on Tuesday that both Beijing and Washington were maintaining necessary communication.

Biden expects three fleets of submarines working together across Atlantic and Pacific to keep ‘our oceans free’

“We believe that the value and significance of communication is to enhance the level of understanding and manage our differences, not to communicate for the sake of communicating. The US side should come forward sincerely, with practical actions to promote China-US relations,” Wang said.

Under the deal, which was welcomed by its Asian allies but has angered Beijing, the United States intends to sell Australia three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines, which are built by General Dynamics, in the early 2030s, with an option for Australia to buy two more if needed, a joint statement said.

It said the multi-stage project would culminate with British and Australian production and operation of a new submarine — SSN-Aukus — a “trilaterally developed” vessel based on Britain’s next-generation design that would be built in Britain and Australia. It will include “cutting edge” US technologies.

Britain would take delivery of its first SSN-Aukus submarine in the late 2030s, and Australia would receive its first in the early 2040s. The vessels will be built by BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

“The Aukus agreement we confirm here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in our history, strengthening Austra­lia’s national security and stability in our region,” Albanese said at the ceremony.

Asked if he was worried China would see the Aukus submarine deal as aggression, Biden replied “no”.

He said he expected to speak to Chinese leader Xi Jinping soon, but would not say when.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan pointed on Friday to Beijing’s own military buildup, including nuclear-powered submarines, saying: “We have communicated with them about Aukus and sought more information from them about their intentions.”

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

Mobs turn into executioners due to the authorities’ helplessness before these elements.
Persistent scourge
28 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...
Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...