US President Joe Biden discussed the next steps for joint action in the Indo-Pacific with his two partners in the AUKUS defense alliance, which was founded in 2021. Biden met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego, California. “The United States could not imagine two better friends or partners,” Biden said. Together we will create a safer and more peaceful future.
It is the “largest single investment in history in Australia’s defense capability,” Albanese said. British Prime Minister Sunak spoke of a “powerful partnership” and emphasized: “For the first time ever, three submarine fleets in both the Atlantic and Pacific will work together to keep our oceans free, open and thriving for decades to come. “
In a joint statement before the meeting, the three leaders declared: “We believe in a world that defends freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states and the rules-based internationalized order.”
Big plans and submarine deals
For the first time since the alliance was born in 2021, concrete steps have been announced: from 2027 onwards, US and British submarines are to be stationed in Australia in a fixed rotation. Four submarines from the USA and one from Great Britain are planned as fleet size.
After a training phase, Australia is to initially purchase three new submarines from the USA in the 2030s, with two more agreed as options. The arms deal was to be officially sealed in San Diego. The purchase has been on the horizon since 2021 – to the annoyance of France, which had long been negotiating billions in submarine supplies with Canberra. The ships belong to the Virginia class, which has nuclear propulsion – but this is not to be confused with the armament. “These boats will not have any kind of nuclear weapons,” Biden clarified.
Small nuclear reactors are common as a drive on submarines – they allow significantly longer dives than diesel engines
In the 2040s, a new class of submarines will be launched, largely designed by Britain and built in Australia. A significant part of the US technology of the Virginia class is also to be used.
So far, Australia has used the much smaller Collins class submarines.
AUKUS in response to China’s rearmament
The name AUKUS is made up of the country codes of the countries involved. A stronger US view of the Indo-Pacific is a key geopolitical theme of the Biden presidency. Ahead of the San Diego meeting, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the Alliance was not sending a message to any specific country, but would “help us play the important stabilizing role and maintain peace and stability in this vibrant region of the world.”
Even without specifically naming China, many experts are certain that the alliance should be seen primarily as a reaction to Beijing’s growing military influence: For years, China has been formulating claims to areas in the South China Sea with increasing vehemence, which are also claimed by US allies . But China is also expanding its influence in other Pacific regions such as the Solomon Islands – to the displeasure of the United States. At the end of the People’s Congress in China, the Communist Party delegates approved a 7.2 percent increase in defense spending.
China had previously lodged an objection that AUKUS was violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty: the transfer of nuclear weapons materials to a non-nuclear power was a “blatant” violation of the spirit of the treaty. Australia disagreed, arguing that the submarines were not nuclear-armed, only propelled.
ehl/ack (dpa, rtr, ap)