President Biden was joined via videolink by the leaders of Australia and the UK on Wednesday to announce AUKUS—a new security alliance between the three countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The pact, which includes a deal to equip Australia with its first nuclear-powered submarines, is widely seen as an effort to counter China's influence, though officials argued it is not aimed at any one country, reports the Wall Street Journal. More:
- The deal. The plan to make Australia the seventh country to operate nuclear-powered subs is the "jewel in the crown" of the pact and could be one of the biggest international defense collaborations in decades, reports the Economist. The pact also includes cooperation in other undersea capabilities, along with security cooperation in cyberspace. The subs will be built in Adelaide.
- China's reaction. Chinese officials angrily slammed the deal as part of a "Cold War" mentality, the Guardian reports. Foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian accused the three countries of "extremely irresponsible" double standards on nuclear non-proliferation, though leaders stressed that the subs will be nuclear-powered but not nuclear-armed. An editorial in China's state-run Global Times warned that if Australia acts with "bravado," its "troops are also most likely to be the first batch of western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea."
- France isn't happy, either. Australia has now canceled a diesel-electric submarine deal with France worth tens of billions of dollars, the AP reports. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the move as a "stab in the back." French officials also complained about the country being left out of the security pact.
- Countering China's military spend. While Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn't mention China during the announcement, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says Beijing has embarked on one of the biggest military spends in its history. "Obviously it is engaged in some disputed areas," he tells the BBC. "Our partners in those regions want to be able to stand their own ground."
- Australia a "regional foil" to China. The pact cements Australia's role " as a regional foil against Beijing's assertiveness," writes Andrew Probyn at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "Not that China would have had any doubt about where Australia's security allegiance lies," he writes. "But this is a formal declaration by way of technological embrace."
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