UK and France Fanning The Embers Of Old Rivalries
September 25, 2021
September 16, 2021
The UK, US, and Australia have announced a historic security pact in the Asia-Pacific, in what's seen as an effort to counter China. It will let Australia build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US.
The Aukus pact, which will also cover AI and other technologies, is one of the countries' biggest defense partnerships in decades, analysts say. China has condemned the agreement as "extremely irresponsible". Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it "seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race". China's embassy in Washington accused the countries of a "Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice".
The pact also created a row with France, which has now lost a deal with Australia to build 12 submarines. "It's really a stab in the back," France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio. The new partnership was announced in a joint virtual press conference between US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Wednesday.
And while China was not mentioned directly, the three leaders referred repeatedly to regional security concerns which they said had "grown significantly". UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said China was "embarking on one of the biggest military spends in history"."It is growing its navy [and] air force at a huge rate. Obviously, it is engaged in some disputed areas," he said. "Our partners in those regions want to be able to stand their own ground."
The Aukus alliance is probably the most significant security arrangement between the three nations since World War Two, analysts say. The pact will focus on military capability, separating it from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance which also includes New Zealand and Canada. While Australia's submarines is the big-ticket item, Aukus will also involve the sharing of cyber capabilities and other undersea technologies.
These submarines are much faster and harder to detect than conventionally powered fleets. They can stay submerged for months, shoot missiles longer distances, and also carry more. Having them stationed in Australia is critical to US influence in the region, analysts say. The US is sharing its submarine technology for the first time in 50 years. It had previously only shared technology with the UK.
Australia will become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India, and Russia. Australia has reaffirmed it has no intention of obtaining nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, New Zealand said it would ban Australia's submarines from its waters, in line with an existing policy on the presence of nuclear-powered submarines.
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