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The UK, the US and Australia have announced a new trilateral security partnership – under the acronym AUUKUS.
The new alliance will see Australia build a fleet of a nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology.
AUUKUS appears to be a thinly-veiled attempt by Western allies to push back against China’s growing power and influence.
On Wednesday night, US president Joe Biden was joined virtually on camera by British prime minister Boris Johnson and Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, where details of the pact were officially announced.
What will AUUKUS do?
The joint announcement confirmed that the US will provide a nuclear-powered submarine to Canberra, with Australia deciding to abandon its submarine deal with France.
In 2016, Australia selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
At the heart of the announcement was a new working group to make it easier for the three countries to share information in key technological areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities.
Nuclear-powered submarines, not weapons
According to Reuters, US officials stressed that the move would not involve the provision of nuclear weapons to Australia.
They said the submarines would not be deployed with atomic weaponry, but would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
Why form an alliance against China?
While China was not mentioned by any of the world leaders during the on-camera announcement, Politico cited sources saying the “subtext” to the move was a bid by Western allies to “push back on China’s rise in the military and technology arenas”.
The attempt to secure an allied nuclear-powered submarine in the Pacific is seen as a tool to “contain Chinese military expansion”, it said.
Earlier this year, in the integrated review of security and foreign policy, the UK government outlined plans for a “tilt” in focus towards the Indo-Pacific, with aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth being deployed on a voyage east – a decision said to be about sending a message to Beijing and Russia about Britain’s military might.
What did they say?
In a live broadcast announcement at Downing Street, Johnson said the alliance would make the world safer and generate jobs across the UK – adding the aim was “working hand-in-glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific”.
Johnson added: “Perhaps most significantly, the UK, Australia and the US will be joined even more closely together, reflecting the measure of trust between us, the depth of our friendship, and the enduring strength of our shared values of freedom and democracy.”
Speaking from Australia, Morrison said the world was “becoming more complex, particularly in our region, the Indo-Pacific”, and said the future of the geopolitical area “will impact all our futures”.
Biden, who thanked “Boris” and “that fella Down Under” for their contributions, said the “future of each of our nations, and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead”.