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AUKUS is not a challenge to anyone, Joe Biden says as US shares nuclear technology with Australia


US President Joe Biden dismissed China’s concerns over the trilateral security pact AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) when he met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Biden stressed that the deal was about securing stability in the Indo-Pacific region and not challenging China.

“I don’t view what we’re doing as a challenge to anyone,” Biden told reporters when he met Albanian.

Through the AUKUS deal, announced in September 2021, the US and UK will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. Australia will procure at least three Virginia-class attack submarines from the US and the UK will provide an updated version of the Astute submarine, SSN-AUKUS. The agreement is billed as the most important trilateral military technology pact since the Cold War.

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Albanese said Australia was grateful that the United States was sharing its nuclear propulsion technology for the first time in 65 years and only for the second time in history.

The submarines will not carry nuclear weapons, but the pact has been strongly criticized by China, which accuses members of having a “Cold War mentality”. Australia will have the option to purchase two more of the nuclear submarines following the initial deal, which is expected to close in the early 2030s. The three nations plan to establish a Submarine Rotational Force near Western Australia.

Aside from building submarines, the AUKUS Pact also includes a commitment to collaborate in building artificial intelligence capabilities, hypersonic weapons and other advanced technologies. While China was only briefly mentioned on Monday, the security deal is part of an ongoing effort by the three nations to respond to Beijing’s growing military strength and increasingly assertive presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

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US President Joe Biden called the moment “a watershed moment” from Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, adding that the hard work to increase deterrence and promote stability would tarnish the prospect of peace for decades to come.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously mentioned escalating problems, such as Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s increasing aggressiveness and destabilizing actions by Iran and North Korea.

“Facing this new reality, it is more important than ever that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries,” he said.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.