Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have announced a new trilateral security alliance, including a joint effort to help the Australian military acquire nuclear-powered submarines, in an apparent attempt to counter China.
The leaders of all three countries unveiled the alliance – dubbed AUKUS – on Wednesday. They stressed that the submarines would be nuclear powered, not carrying nuclear weapons.
Australia is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden said the three nations were taking a “historic step” to deepen their cooperation.“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because 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.”
The three leaders did not mention China explicitly in their remarks on Wednesday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian slammed the new alliance as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to regional stability.
The agreement “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”, Lijian told a regular press briefing.
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, also said the three countries should “shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”, the Wall Street Journal and the Reuters news agency reported.
‘Safe, more secure’
Australia’s Morrison said the newly announced partnership would “deliver a safer and more secure region” and ultimately benefit all.
“Let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” he added. “And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”
Australia said it intended to build eight nuclear-powered submarines under the agreement.