OFFICIAL: US, UK and Australia announce AUKUS — An alliance to curb China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific

close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific
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US, UK and Australia announce AUKUS — An alliance to curb China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific

Highlights

  • Australia will receive new nuclear-powered submarines, which Prime Minister Morrison insists will not be used to deploy nuclear weapons.
  • The three nations will pool their knowledge on critical subjects such as cyber warfare and artificial intelligence.
  • Biden, Johnson, and Morrison have pledged to support each other's global security and defence interests.
  • According to the triple alliance, the alliance will help to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific area.

President Joe Biden stated on Wednesday that the US is forging a new Indo-Pacific military alliance with the United Kingdom and Australia that will allow for increased defence sharing, a move that might widen the gap between the US and China.

Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared virtually together to lay out the new AUKUS alliance (pronounced AWK-us).

"We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term," Biden said, adding that the new alliance is part of a larger trend of key European allies playing a role in the region.

“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve.”

China, which has repeatedly slammed Biden for trying to refocus US foreign policy on the Pacific in the early stages of his presidency, is likely to view the new security alliance as aggressive.

Prior to the announcement, a senior administration official attempted to downplay the concept that the alliance would act as a deterrence to China in the region.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement, said the alliance's formation is part of a bigger effort by the three countries to maintain engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

Johnson said;

“We will have a new opportunity to reinforce Britain’s place at the leading edge of science and technology, strengthening our national expertise, and perhaps most significant, the U.K., Australia and the U.S. will be joined even more closely together".

According to the official, the three countries have agreed to share information in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber, and underwater defence capabilities.

They stated that they will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. To date, the United States has only shared nuclear propulsion technology with the United Kingdom.

Biden stated that Australia had no plans to build a nuclear weapons program, and that information exchange would be confined to assisting the country in the development of a submarine fleet.

The new security alliance is being announced at a time when the US-China relationship is deteriorating.

Beijing has taken issue with Biden administration officials repeatedly criticizing China for human rights violations in Xianjing province, the crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and cybersecurity breaches originating from China, as well as Beijing's response to the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has described as "coercive and unfair" trade practices.

Despite the fact that White House officials have regularly expressed their displeasure with China, administration officials say they want to collaborate with Beijing on issues of mutual concern, including the pandemic and climate change.

Last week, Biden spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping, amid mounting American dissatisfaction with the lack of results from high-level dialogue between the two leaders' senior aides.

Following the 90-minute phone chat, Xi voiced concern that the US government's policy toward China has produced "severe challenges" in relations, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

When asked on Tuesday about media rumours that Xi had declined to meet with him in person, Trump replied the stories were "untrue."

The United States and Australia, as well as India and Japan, are members of the "Quad" strategic conversation. Next Monday, Biden will host fellow Quad leaders at the White House.

Biden has attempted to rally friends to speak with a cohesive voice on China and to deliver the message that he will take a far different approach to China than former President Donald Trump, who prioritized trade and economic issues in the US-China relationship.

At Biden's request, the Group of Seven nations called on China to protect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province, as well as to allow a comprehensive investigation into COVID-19's origins. While the allies agreed to work together to compete against China, there was less agreement on how antagonistic the group should be in public.

In addition, the president has worked to reassure friends, particularly those in the Quad, that his administration will remain focused on China.

Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to preserving the Senkaku Islands, a series of uninhabited islets governed by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Biden has highlighted the need for "close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific" in meetings with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And, in a meeting with Australia's Morrison, the president emphasized the importance of the two countries' partnership to regional stability.