Nations in the AUKUS alliance have reaffirmed their commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.
In a joint statement from Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS) on Wednesday, the leaders of the trilateral group reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden said Russia’s ‘unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine’ had moved them to reiterate the AUKUS commitment to a free and law-abiding international system.
“We are pleased with the progress in our trilateral program for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine capability.
“We are fully committed to establishing a robust approach to sharing naval propulsion technology with Australia that strengthens the global non-proliferation regime,” the leaders said.
Submarines and advanced capabilities are the two main projects the trilateral agreement is founded upon.
Wednesday’s statement marked a progress review of the two lines of effort and confirmed AUKUS partners had started mapping the best pathway for building an Australian conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability. This included an information exchange via a Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA) in February 2022, and planning to consider how to deliver a local workforce in Australia with the requisite skills to build and operate conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarine capability.
Last month Morrison announced a new submarine base on Australia’s east coast would support the future nuclear-powered submarines, which would operate together with an existing base in Western Australia. The federal government has also taken steps to buy extra land adjacent to South Australia’s Osborne North Shipyard to build the submarines.
“Since the announcement of AUKUS, our nations have been engaging proactively with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the non-proliferation aspects of our partnership,” a government-issued explainer read.
“Following the initiation of technical consultations with the IAEA, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi reported to the IAEA Board of Governors on March 7 that Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States ‘are committed to ensuring the highest non-proliferation and safeguards standards are met’.”
The trilateral agreement also calls out eight headings for collaboration on matters of advanced capability, including undersea capabilities, quantum technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy, advanced cyber, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities, electronic warfare, innovation, and information sharing.
“We also committed today to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defence innovation,” the leaders said.
“As our work progresses on these and other critical defence and security capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners.”