Seeking to strengthen their allies in the dispute against China in the Indo-Pacific, the United States and the United Kingdom have signed a military pact mainly aiming at equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
The accord was announced on September 16th, 2021, by President Joe Biden (US) and Prime Ministers Boris Johnson (UK) and Scott Morrison (Australia) in a video conference. AUKUS is an acronym of the allied nations (Australia, United Kingdom and the United States)
Without much detail, the leaders said that a program to manufacture the vessels on the island-continent will be developed in a year and a half.
All three nations emphasized that it is a nuclear-powered submarine, but not armed with atomic weapons - which Australia does not even possess. And there will also be cooperation in the fields of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI). But the focus is military.
"Our nations will update and enhance our shared ability and to take on the threats of the 21st century together", stated the American president, Joe Biden.
Joe Biden also added that the imminent unsettling movements in the Indo-Pacific area needed to be sorted out to create future stability and security in the region.
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term”, the US leader said.
After calling the trilateral agreement “a highly irresponsible act”, China's embassy in Washington accused the allied countries of a "Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice".
Although the participants did not mention China directly by name as the cause of the Indo-Pacific aggressive conflicts, specialists ensure that the AUKUS alliance is a military strategy to counter the control of the Asian giant in the region.
“The Australian Navy is now dealt into the front rank of global naval powers once it achieves this capability. And it’s very difficult to see this as anything, but a response to the rise of China”.
Sam Roggeveen, Director of the Lowy Institute's International Security Program, told the BBC. All this puts the Cold War 2.0 declared by Donald Trump in 2017 on a new level.
What is going on in the Indo-Pacific area?
Since 2014, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, militarized atolls and islets, claiming for China 85% of the waters of the vast region. This has been challenged and suffered international reactions so far by countries like the Philippines. Anyway, China has planted its flag. The bulk of exports and, just as important, the energy inflow of oil from the Persian Gulf pass through it.
Australia has also been getting progressively conflicting with China, with disputes ranging from rights to manage ports on the island-continent to the presence of Chinese students in the country.
Why has it upset France?
“A stab in the back”.
This is how the foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reacted to the new security agreement. AUKUS will affect the French as well. According to the Australian press, still without having details of the terms of the pact, the deal will bury a €31 billion purchase made by Canberra in France.
The deal created in 2016 should provide the manufacture of 12 French diesel-electric propulsion models in Australia. Despite denying the betrayal on France, the Australian government will pay a fine compensation for the cancellation of the deal.
Australian news reports have described this disagreement between France and Australia as a diplomatic disaster with uncontrollable damages.
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