The United States, United Kingdom and Australia unveiled details of their plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, aimed at countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. .
Under the Aukus pact, Australia is to get its first nuclear submarines – at least three – from the United States.
The allies will also work to create a new fleet using state-of-the-art technology, including UK-made Rolls-Royce jet engines.
Beijing said the major naval deal “undermines peace and stability”.
The Chinese mission to the UN has also accused Western allies of delaying nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
But US President Joe Biden said the deal was aimed at bolstering peace in the region and stressed the submarines would be “nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed”.
Speaking alongside British and Australian Prime Ministers – Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese – in San Diego, California, Mr Biden said the deal would not jeopardize Australia’s commitment to be a without nuclear.
For Australia, this is a major upgrade to the military capabilities of the American ally. The country becomes just the second after the UK to receive elite nuclear propulsion technology from Washington.
Submarines will be able to operate farther and faster than the country’s existing diesel fleet, and Australia will also be able to carry out long-range strikes against enemies for the first time.
As part of the deal, Australian navy sailors will be sent to US and UK submarine bases from this year to learn how to operate the nuclear-powered submarines.
From 2027, the US and UK will also base a small number of nuclear submarines in Perth, Western Australia, before Canberra purchases three US-style Virginia-class submarines at the start. 2030s – with options to buy two more.
After that, the plan is to design and build an all-new nuclear-powered submarine for the British and Australian navies – a model called SSN-AUKUS.
This attack craft will be built in Britain and Australia to a British design, but will use technology from all three countries.
President Biden said the three countries are committed to ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open.
“In forging this new partnership, we are once again showing how democracies can ensure our own security and prosperity…not just for ourselves but for the whole world,” he said.
He also pledged $4.6bn (£3.7bn) to boost the US’s submarine-building capacity and improve the maintenance of its current Virginia-class nuclear submarines.
Australia’s prime minister said the plan – which will cost Canberra up to A$368bn (£201bn) over 30 years – marked “the biggest investment in Australia’s defense capability of any his history”.
Anthony Albanese said building the submarines in Australian shipyards would also create thousands of local jobs.
The British prime minister said that in the 18 months since the unveiling of the Aukus alliance, challenges to global stability have only grown.
“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, Iran’s and North Korea’s destabilizing behavior – all threaten to create a world coded by danger, disorder and division,” Sunak said.
As part of his visit to the United States, Mr Sunak also pledged to increase defense spending by nearly £5 billion ($6 billion) over the next two years to counter threats from the United States. hostile states.
The Aukus security alliance – announced in September 2021 – has repeatedly drawn criticism from China. Beijing’s foreign ministry last week reiterated its position that the pact risked creating an arms race.
But the three Western nations say the security deal aims to bolster stability in the Indo-Pacific.
While the three leaders highlighted how the deal will enhance their cooperation, it was not without political fallout.
In 2021, Australia ended a multimillion-dollar diesel-powered submarine deal with France in favor of the trilateral deal, sparking a political rift with Paris.
Australia also faces a delicate diplomatic situation with China, its largest trading partner. Analysts say the question will be whether he can continue to strengthen military ties with the United States, while fostering trade ties with Beijing.