The United States, Britain and Australia said on Wednesday they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will involve helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, as Chinese influence over the region grows.
Under the partnership, announced by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the United States will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, senior U.S. administration officials told reporters.
The three leaders outlined the deal in a three-way virtual announcement from each of their capitals.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific for the long term,” said Biden.
No nuclear weapons, Morrison says
Morrison said the submarines would be built in Adelaide in close co-operation with the U.S. and the U.K.
He said Australia will not be fielding nuclear weapons. “We will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”
Johnson called it a momentous decision for Australia to acquire the technology, which he said would make the world safer.
“This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world.”
The U.S. officials stressed that the move, which comes as Washington and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, would not involve provision of nuclear weapons to Australia.
They said the submarines would not be deployed with atomic weaponry, but would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
The officials said the partnership, which will also involve co-operation in areas including artificial intelligence, quantum technology and cyber, was “not aimed at any one country.”
“This is a historic announcement. It reflects the Biden administration’s determination to build stronger partnerships to sustain peace and stability across the entire Indo-Pacific region,” one of the officials said.
Australian media reported that the partnership looks likely to end the country’s attempts to have French shipbuilder Naval Group build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion US to replace Australia’s more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.