The Biden administration announced a new defense partnership on Wednesday with Australia and the United Kingdom that will see Australia develop its own nuclear-powered submarines.
A senior U.S. official said Australia would acquire nuclear-propulsion technology that the U.S. has only ever shared with the U.K., in comments to the Financial Times. The submarines would not be equipped with nuclear warheads, and there is no agreement to help Australia acquire nuclear weapons.
President Biden said the three governments would undertake an 18-month consultation process to develop the program, at a joint press briefing with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and British prime minister Boris Johnson, who spoke via teleconference.
“The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have long been faithful and capable partners, and we’re even closer today,” Biden said. The president later emphasized, “We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.”
The trilateral defense partnership, to be known as AUKUS, will “foster deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains,” according to a joint press release by the three heads of state.
None of the leaders mentioned China in their speeches. However, the partnership comes amid several years of rising tensions between the U.S. and China.
The partnership is “an elegant message, a reminder to China that Australia has the technological capabilities and alliance relationships that they could become a nuclear power if the threat China poses becomes so severe,” Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Financial Times.