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Australia will buy US nuclear submarines under a bold new deal

Australia has announced plans to buy up to five American nuclear submarines and then use US and British technology to make a new model. This is part of an ambitious plan to strengthen Western power in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a growing China.

On Monday, President Joseph Biden visited Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a military station in San Diego, California, where the news was made.

Biden claimed that the United States has “safeguarded stability in the Indo-Pacific for decades,” and that the submarine alliance will increase “the likelihood of peace for decades to come.” A US Virginia-class nuclear submarine was docked behind the stage where the three were speaking.

Biden emphasised that Australia would not be given nuclear weapons despite joining a new alliance with the United States and United Kingdom 18 months ago.

Yet, joining a select group of countries with stealthy submarines powered by nuclear reactors puts Australia at the vanguard of US-led efforts to counter Chinese military growth.

Albanese has claimed this agreement is the largest investment in Australia’s military capacity “in all of our history.”

Cruise missiles that can hit enemies from great distances are likely to be installed on the submarines, making them a formidable deterrent.

According to Albanese, the domestic economic effect will be similar to the entrance of the motor industry following World War II.

The Australian government predicts the first decade of the multi-decade project would cost over $40 billion and provide 20,000 new employment.

Albanese emphasised that Australia had become the second nation after the United Kingdom to be given access to American naval nuclear secrets. “We are connected, above all, by a globe… where peace and stability and security assure more prosperity,” he remarked.

The sale of three nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed Virginia-class boats is expected to take place “over the course of the 2030s,” according to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.

After completing the SSN-AUKUS, Britain and Australia plan to begin construction on a second type, likewise fueled by nuclear energy and capable of carrying conventional weapons. “major investments in all three industrial areas,” Sullivan added, indicate that this will be a British design using American technology.

Rising allocations to the military

While Australia has rejected the use of nuclear weapons, the submarine proposal represents a crucial new step in the battle with China, which has created a powerful naval force and transformed manmade islands into offshore bases in the Pacific.

British efforts to strengthen its military were announced Monday by Sunak’s office in response to the growing threat posed by China and Russia’s invasion of pro-Western Ukraine.

More than $6 billion in extra financing over the next two years would “replenish and fortify crucial munitions stores, upgrade the UK’s nuclear business, and support the next phase of the AUKUS submarine programme,” according to Downing Street.

Australia had planned to purchase a $66 billion package of French submarines that are also conventionally propelled to replace its outdated fleet of diesel-powered submarines.

Canberra’s sudden declaration that it was withdrawing from the pact and joining the AUKUS project prompted a short but unusually fierce fight between the three nations and their strong friend France.

Virginia-class submarines are almost twice as long as the Collins-class submarines Australia will be retiring, and can accommodate 132 crew members instead of 48.

The longer-term renovation, however, will take quite some time.

According to a high-ranking American official, the United Kingdom’s navy won’t get its “state of the art” SSN-AUKUS warships until the late 2030s, and Australia won’t get theirs until the early 2040s.

While this is happening, Australian sailors, engineers, and other people will be training alongside their American and British counterparts to learn new skills, and American and British submarines will make frequent port calls in Australia.

China has expressed concern that AUKUS may spark an arms race and has accused the three nations of hindering efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia should “abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games, honour international obligations in good faith, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability,” Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters in Beijing.

In a heated remarks last week, communist nation leader Xi Jinping accused the United States of orchestrating a Western plot to “contain, surround, and repress” China.

Yet according to Washington, Beijing’s threats to invade Taiwan’s self-governing democracy and its emphasis on the danger from nuclear-armed North Korea are frightening governments around the Asia-Pacific.

What we’ve seen is a succession of aggressive moves that China has done under the leadership of Xi Jinping over the past five to ten years,” the senior US official said. There is an effort to protect and safeguard the Indo-operating Pacific’s system.

Source: BSS

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