President Joe Biden, joined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson, agreed on the new Indo-Pacific Security pact. The deal dubbed AUKUS was negotiated on Wednesday.
Peace and Stability
The heads of nations stated their partnership is guided by their enduring ideas and shared commitment to the international rules-based order. The security pact is to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific in the long run.
For Australia, it is pivotal to be more equipped in the 21st century. The country will build eight nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide as part of the partnership.
Canberra argued that nuclear-powered submarines provide superior stealth, seed manoeuvrability and survivability when compared to conventional submarines.
The heads assured that the subs would only be nuclear-powered and not equipped with nuclear weaponry.
This security alliance will make Australia the second country after Britain gains access to the US nuclear technology.
The security alliance also called for deeper diplomatic relations between the three countries. The aim is to improve security and diplomatic cooperation among the capitals with enhanced interoperability in artificial intelligence, cyber, and quantum technologies.
Push Back to China’s Assertiveness
Although there is no mention of China by any of the three involved governments, it is widely understood that the alliance is a way to attempt to counter Beijing’s assertiveness in the region.
Washington and its allies have been attempting to push back against China’s growing power and influence. Its military build-up and deployments in the South China Sea have been the reason for growing concern.
China’s US Embassy spoke against building exclusionary blocs that target or harm the interests of third parties. China’s new assertive and uncompromising behaviour is driving the new alignments meant to balance out the power China has accumulated.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian talking on France UK Info radio, called the move a ‘stab in the back. He called the decision unilateral, brutal and unpredictable. Comparing President Biden’s decision making to Trump’s, he expressed his unhappiness about the security pact.
Two years ago, France won the contract to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. Back then, neither US nor UK had participated in the tender process. The trust established between France and Australia is now broken.
In a joint statement with France’s Defence Ministry, Le Drian talked about the unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. US’s call to exclude a European ally in the decision-making process of structuring a partnership with Australia was a shock and showed a lack of coherence.
Reactions from the Rest of the World
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the alliance’s attention to the region is necessary, just like the stability it aims to bring to the area. However, the Australian nuclear-power submarines would not be allowed in the New Zealand waters.
Under a 1984 nuclear-free zone policy, no vessel fully or partially powered by nuclear energy enters New Zealand’s water.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commented on the long-standing relations with Australia, Britain and the United States. He hopes that the new partnership would contribute to the peace and stability in the region while complementing the regional architecture.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan would cooperate with the Quad grouping of the US, Australia, India, and the ASEAN’s group to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.