Biden announces Indo-Pacific alliance with UK, Australia

Washington, Sept. 16 (BNA): President Joe Biden announced that the United States is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia that will allow for greater sharing of defense capabilities – including helping to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. . It is a move that could deepen the growing chasm in US-China relations.

Biden made the announcement along with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined him by video link to unveil the new alliance, which will be called AUKUS (pronounced AWK-us). The three announced that they would quickly turn their attention to developing nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.

“We all recognize the need to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region over the long term,” Biden said, and said the new alliance reflects a broader trend of key European partners playing a role in the Indo-Pacific region. “We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it might evolve.”

None of the leaders mentioned China in their statements. But the new security alliance is likely to be seen as a provocative move by Beijing, which has repeatedly attacked Biden as he sought to refocus US foreign policy on the Pacific early in his presidency.

Prior to the announcement, a senior administration official sought to downplay the idea that the alliance was intended to act as a deterrent against China in the region. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the declaration, said that the creation of the alliance does not target any country alone, but rather is related to a greater effort to maintain engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region by the three countries.

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Johnson said the alliance would allow the three English-speaking maritime democracies to strengthen their ties and sharpen their focus on an increasingly complex part of the world.

“We will have a new opportunity to cement Britain’s place at the forefront of science and technology, enhance our national expertise and, perhaps most importantly, the UK, Australia and the United States will join together more closely,” Johnson said.

The three countries agreed to share information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber and underwater defense capabilities.

But plans to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines are sure to catch Beijing’s attention. So far, the only country with which the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology is Britain. Morrison said Australia was not seeking to develop a nuclear weapons program and that information sharing would be limited to helping it develop a fleet of submarines.

The Australian prime minister said plans for nuclear-powered submarines would be developed over the next 18 months and the ships would be built in Adelaide, Australia.

Australia announced in 2016 that France’s DCNS had beaten bidders from Japan and Germany to build the next generation of submarines in Australia’s largest-ever defense contract.

Senior French officials have made clear they are unhappy with the deal, which undermines the DCNS deal.

“The American option is to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from an orderly partnership with Australia, at a time when we face unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, both in terms of our values ​​and in terms of respect for multilateralism,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a statement. Common: “Based on the rule of law, it shows a lack of coherence which France can only notice and regret.”

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Morrison said the three countries “have always looked from a similar perspective,” but as the world becomes more complex, “to meet these new challenges, to help provide the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level.”

Matt Pottinger, who served as the Trump administration’s deputy national security adviser, said equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines was an important step that would help the United States and its allies on the military and diplomatic fronts.

Pottinger said underwater warfare capabilities were Beijing’s “Achilles heel”. A nuclear-powered submarine fleet will allow Australia to conduct longer patrols, giving the new alliance a stronger presence in the region.

“When you have a strong military, it provides a backdrop of deterrence that gives countries confidence to resist bullying,” said Pottinger, now a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “Part of the problem right now is that Beijing has become somewhat arrogant and has been less willing to engage productively in diplomacy.”

The announcement of the new security alliance comes as US-China relations deteriorate. Beijing has dismissed Biden administration officials who have repeatedly called on China for human rights abuses in Xinjing province, crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and cybersecurity violations arising from China, as well as Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House is doing. It was described as “coercive and unfair” business practices.

Even as White House officials have repeatedly talked about China, administration officials say they want to work with Beijing on areas of mutual interest, including epidemic mitigation and climate change.

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Biden spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week amid growing frustration on the American side that the high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers has been largely unproductive.

After the 90-minute phone call, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi had expressed concerns that the US government’s policy toward China had caused “serious difficulties” in relations.

Asked on Tuesday about media reports that Xi had refused to commit to meeting him in person, the US president said that was “not true.” Biden did not speak “in specific terms” about the new AUKUS alliance during last week’s call with the Chinese leader, according to a senior administration official.

The United States and Australia, along with India and Japan, are members of a strategic dialogue known as the Quartet. Biden is scheduled to host fellow Quartet leaders at the White House next week.

Biden sought to rally allies to speak with a more united voice on China and tried to send a message that he would take a radically different approach to China from former President Donald Trump, who put trade and economic issues above everything else in the United States. China relationship.

While the Allies broadly agreed to work to compete against China, there was less unity about how antagonistic the overall position the group should take.

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