China: Expert discusses impact of AUKUS alliance
Eric Abetz, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee was speaking after the unveiling of the AUKUS pact, widely seen as a bid to counter Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The agreement will “foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains”, a Ministry of Defence press release issued yesterday explained.
Specifically, it will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, with technology provided by the US.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This partnership will become increasingly vital for defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific region and, by extension, protecting our people back at home.”
Mr Abetz, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, said the announcement was a critical move to bolster Australia’s defence capabilities and improve the deteriorating security situation in the Indo-Pacific.
Boris Johnson has hailed the AUKUS deal, which is aimed at countering Chinese dominance
Senator Eric Abetz
Tasmanian Senator Abetz, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, added: “Security challenges in the Indo-Pacific are greater than ever and Australia must be ready to meet those challenges head-on.
“This new trilateral security partnership and the nuclear submarines that will be a result of it is evident of the strong relationship between the three nations and their commitment to greater global security.”
Mr Abetz added: “Freedom-loving countries of the world must stand together and Australia, the US and the UK have demonstrated their deep commitment to one another and a free world.
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“The balance of power in the Indo-Pacific has slowly shifted with an aggressive CCP dictatorship and this partnership sends a strong message that our nations will defend freedom and each other.”
Moving on to specifics, Mr Abetz said: “As a long-time advocate for nuclear submarines, this is a welcome move which will greatly improve Australia’s security capabilities.
“Our unique geography and our location in the Indo-Pacific requires dynamic naval capabilities and nuclear submarines will serve that end very well.”
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US President Joe Biden, Mr Johnson nor Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, insisted the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.
However, Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the three countries were "severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts".
He warned: "China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation.
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“It should not target any third party or undermine its interests.”
A US official briefing prior to the announcement said Mr Biden had not mentioned the plans "in any specific terms" to Xi in a call last Thursday, although he did "underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific".
Officials said nuclear propulsion would permit the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
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The partnership ends Australia's 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth £29billion ($40 billion) to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
The decision prompted a swift and furious rebuke from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Mr Le Drian told franceinfo radio: "This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.
"I am angry and bitter. This isn't done between allies."