Australia, the UK and the US have formed a new security partnership called AUKUS, intending to equip Australia’s Navy with nuclear-powered submarines as its first major initiative.
The freshly announced agreement will also aim to bring greater capabilities in the area of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and quantum computing to Australia’s defence toolkit.
Prime minister Scott Morrison, prime minister Boris Johnson and president Joe Biden announced the trilateral arrangement during a press conference held earlier this morning.
The move to nuclear powered submarines also means the scrapping of the $90 billion agreement with France’s Naval Group to build submarines in South Australia.
Morrison said the new partnership is intended to focus on enhancing the security of the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific. This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures,” Morrison said.
Australia’s prime minister also said that the announcement of the project to develop nuclear-powered submarine capability does not mean Australia is seeking a nuclear weapons capability or a civil nuclear power capacity.
The British prime minister said the AUKUS focus on the development of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia will be consistent with agreements on nuclear non-proliferation.
“We’re opening a new chapter in our friendship, and the first task of this partnership will be to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, emphasising, of course, that the submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors — not armed with nuclear weapons,” Johnson said.
President Biden said building a capability to deal with rapid threats is a key objective at the heart of the work to be undertaken under the AUKUS agreement.
“We’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalise cooperation among all three of our nations, because we all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long-term,” Biden said.
It did not take long for critics of the move to nuclear powered submarines to surface, with senators from the Australian Greens opposing the nuclear move on Twitter.
‘History tells us nothing good comes from an arms race. Massive provocation. Bigger target on our back,” Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said.
The Electrical Trades Union said it believed the decision to be a betrayal of the non-nuclear policy.
“It is dangerous and delusional to rely on nuclear submarines for our defence. We are fearful this will also cost Australia much needed engineering, manufacturing, and construction jobs,” Michael Wright, the union’s national secretary, said.
“We need answers as to where and how these nuclear submarines will be built. We need these answers quickly.”