Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
President Joe Biden, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison convened virtually on Wednesday to announce the formation of a new security alliance.
In a joint presentation, the three leaders championed AUKUS (pronounced “awk-us”), an agreement that will allow the nations to share defense capabilities at an even greater rate than before.
“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve,” Biden said. “Because the future of each of our nations — and indeed the world — depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead.
“This is about investing in our greatest source of strength — our alliances — and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow.”
Key among the tenets of the agreement will be bolstering Australia’s nuclear submarine capacity.
“We’re opening a new chapter in our friendship,” Johnson said, “and the first task of this partnership will be to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, emphasizing, of course, that the submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors, not armed with nuclear weapons. And our work will be fully in line with our non-proliferation obligations.”
The alliance, though, has not been met with universal acceptance, even in the West.
The South China Morning Post reports that France, and by extension the European Union is frustrated at having been left out of the agreement and has expressed concerns that AUKUS puts the desires of the Americans above those of European nations.
Additionally, there is the matter of China. While no leader mentioned China in his remarks, the expansion of the Australian navy is unquestionably a response to China’s growing influence in the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as recent squabbling between China and Australia.
Indeed, The Atlantic’s Tom McTague deemed AUKUS the “Anti-China Alliance”; and, as Derek Grossman of the nonpartisan think tank Rand Corporation outlines here, the new alliance is in keeping with American aims to counteract Chinese expansion.
In a press conference on Thursday, Zhao Lijian, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, indicated that China was outraged.
“The nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts,” Lijian said. “The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia by the U.S. and the U.K. proves once again that they are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical game and adopting double standards. This is extremely irresponsible.”
“The international community, including Australia’s neighboring countries, has full reason to question whether Australia is serious about fulfilling its nuclear non-proliferation commitments,” he added. “China will pay close attention to the development of the relevant situation.”
The AUKUS alliance is an unsurprising development for three nations that have been allies since the 1800s and share a cultural connect.
“We have always seen the world through a similar lens,” Prime Minister Morrison said. “We have always believed in a world that favors freedom; that respects human dignity, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and the peaceful fellowship of nations.”
The announcement also featured a gaffe by President Biden, who appeared to forget his Australian counterpart’s name.
President Biden, who spoke third, began his remarks by stating, “Thank you, Boris. And I want to thank that fellow down under. Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Mr. Prime Minister.”