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US, Australia, UK ink nuke-powered submarine deal


The US has proposed to sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia with a potential to sell up to two more if needed. (An internet image)

WASHINGTON (PTI): The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have announced a nuclear-powered submarine deal, a step aimed at countering the Chinese aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.

The announcement was made after the leaders of the three countries attended a summit meeting in San Diego on Monday and asserted that the move is to keep the Indo-Pacific region “free and open”.

“With the support and approval of the Congress, beginning in the early 2030s, the United States will sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia with the potential to sell up to two more if needed, jump-starting their undersea capability a decade earlier than many predicted,” Biden said in San Diego with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“This state-of-the-art conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarine will work – that will combine the UK submarine technology and design with the American technology,” he said.

Australia’s future SSN, which Biden described as “SSN-AUKUS”, will also be a state-of-the-art platform designed to leverage the best of submarine technology from all the three nations.

SSN-AUKUS will be based upon the United Kingdom’s next-generation SSN design while incorporating cutting-edge US submarine technologies, and will be built and deployed by both Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Beginning this year, Australian personnel will embed with US and UK crews on boats and at bases in our schools and shipyards. We will also begin to increase our port visits to Australia. In fact, as we speak, the nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Asheville, is making a port call in Perth,” Biden said.

“And later this decade, we will be establishing a rotational presence of the US and UK nuclear-powered subs in Australia to help develop the workforce Australia is going to need to build and maintain its fleet,” he said.

Describing it as a new chapter in the relationship between the three countries, Albanese said this is a friendship built on their shared values, commitment to democracy, and common vision for a peaceful and a prosperous future.

“The AUKUS agreement, we confirm here in San Diego, represents the biggest single investment in Australia's defence capability in all of our history, strengthening Australia's national security and stability in our region; building a future made in Australia with record investments in skills, jobs, and infrastructure; and delivering a superior defence capability into the future,” he said.

From early in the next decade, Australia will take delivery of three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines. This is the first time in 65 years and only the second time in history that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology, he said.

Commenting on the deal, British PM Sunak noted, “Sixty years ago, here in San Diego, President Kennedy spoke of a higher purpose: the maintenance of freedom, peace, and security. Today, we stand together united by that same purpose. Recognising that to fulfil it, we must forge new kinds of relationships to meet new kinds of challenge, just as we have always done.”

“In the last 18 months, the challenges we face have only grown. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China's growing assertiveness, the destabilising behavior of Iran and North Korea all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder, and division,” he said.

“Faced with this new reality, it is more important than ever that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries. That is why the UK is today announcing a significant uplift in our defence budget.

“We are providing an extra £5 billion over the next two years, immediately increasing our defense budget to around 2.25 per cent of GDP. This will allow us to replenish our war stocks and modernise our nuclear enterprise, delivering AUKUS and strengthening our deterrent. Our highest priority is to continue providing military aid to Ukraine because their security is our security,” Sunak added.

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