President Joe Biden announced Wednesday a new trilateral security partnership with Britain and Australia that in part addresses nuclear-defense infrastructure.
Biden spoke about the initiative – dubbed AUKUS – on Wednesday evening at the White House, with both Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the U.K. attending virtually. A senior administration official said the move is dedicated to strengthening America’s alliances and meeting the “challenges of the 21st century.”
“This is about investing in our alliances and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow,” Biden said. “It’s about connecting America’s existing allies and partners in new ways and amplifying our ability to collaborate, recognizing there is no regional divide separating the interest of our Atlantic and Pacific partners.”
“AUKUS will bring together our sailors, our scientists, and our industries to maintain and expand our aging military capabilities and critical technology such as cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea domains,” he added.
Most notably, the three countries announced their shared efforts in supporting Australia’s wish in acquiring nuclear powered submarines. The countries will launch an 18-month trilateral plan dedicated to figuring out how to best meet Australia’s goals, the official said.
“As the first initiative under AUKUS, recognizing our common tradition as maritime democracies, we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy,” the trio said in a joint statement. “Today, we embark on a trilateral effort of 18 months to seek an optimal pathway to deliver this capability. We will leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries’ submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.”
“The endeavor we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” the statement continued. “For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity. Today, with the formation of AUKUS, we recommit ourselves to this vision.”
Historically, Great Britain is the only other country that the U.S. has shared nuclear technology of this level with, the official pointed out. This arrangement goes back to 1958, and the official said this new deal comes due to “a unique set of circumstances.”
“This will give Australia the capability for their submarines to … deploy for longer periods, they’re quieter, they’re much more capable,” the official said.
The official was adamant that the new partnership – and sharing nuclear-defense infrastructure with Australia – is not aimed at any one country. Still, it appears evident that the underlying context surrounds Western allies’ continued pressure against China, as Politico reported earlier Wednesday.
“This is the biggest strategic step that Australia has taken in generations,” the senior official said. “It’s a substantial strategic alignment for Australia, building on a deep partnership with both countries.”
The situation was described as “nuclear propulsion” and the official said Australia “has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons.” The three countries reaffirmed this commitment in their statement, noting that they’re “deeply committed to upholding our leadership on global non-proliferation.”
“The development of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would be a joint endeavor between the three nations, with a focus on interoperability, commonality, and mutual benefit,” the countries noted. “Australia is committed to adhering to the highest standards for safeguards, transparency, verification, and accountancy measures to ensure the non-proliferation, safety, and security of nuclear material and technology. Australia remains committed to fulfilling all of its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state, including with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
AUKUS’s inception comes as Beijing continues to grow its military arsenal. The country has also recently comes exceedingly close to Japanese and U.S. waters, Politico reported. The situation has prompted the Biden administration to work on improving its relationships with other nations that can help protect against China.