The US on Wednesday announced a new alliance with Australia and Britain to strengthen military capabilities in the face of a rising China, with Canberra to receive a nuclear submarine fleet and US cruise missiles.
US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not mention China in unveiling their alliance, dubbed AUKUS — but their intent was clear, and their announcement prompted fury in Beijing.
China yesterday condemned the deal as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to stability in the region.
The agreement also left Paris furious, as Australia scrapped a US$40 billion 2016 deal to purchase conventional submarines from France.
“This initiative is about making sure that each of us has a modern capability — the most modern capabilities we need — to maneuver and defend against rapidly evolving threats,” Biden said, speaking in Washington.
Morrison said that the three all respected “freedom” and “the rule of law,” and that the alliance would help ensure security in the region.
The allies often reference the rule of law and freedoms when railing against China’s military build-up in the South China Sea.
The first major initiative announced under the new alliance was a fleet of eight state-of-the-art nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
The submarines, said Biden and the other leaders, would not be nuclear-armed, only powered with nuclear reactors.
They would allow Australia’s military to travel, and strike targets, far from its coast.
They “are quieter, faster and have longer endurance, which will allow Australia to deploy its future submarines to Indo-Pacific locations for much longer periods of time,” said Ashley Townshend of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
In addition to the submarine fleet, a senior Biden administration official said AUKUS would combine forces on “cyber, AI [artificial intelligence] — particularly applied AI — quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well.”
Morrison later said that Australia would also acquire long-range US Tomahawk cruise missiles.
A Biden administration official underlined repeatedly how “unique” the decision was, with Britain being the only other state the US has ever helped to build a nuclear fleet.
“This technology is extremely sensitive,” the official said. “We view this as a one-off.”
With China building up its own navy and repeatedly testing decades of US military dominance across Asia, the creation of AUKUS, with its focus on submarines, is “meant to send a message of reassurance and a determination to maintain a strong deterrent stance,” the US official said.
Beijing swiftly condemned the agreement, with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) saying that it “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race.”
The new alliance also torpedoed Australia’s conventional submarine deal with France, which had been personally backed by French President Emmanuel Macron.
French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian called the agreement “a stab in the back.”
“I’m very angry today, and bitter... This is not something allies do to each other,” he said.
In the UK, during a Commons debate on the agreement, former British prime minister Theresa May challenged Johnson as to whether the agreement could lead to the UK being dragged into a war with China over Taiwan.
“What are the implications of this pact for the stance that would be taken by the United Kingdom in its response should China attempt to invade Taiwan?” she asked.
In reply, the prime minister was careful not to rule anything out.
“The United Kingdom remains determined to defend international law and that is the strong advice we would give to our friends across the world, and the strong advice that we would give to the government in Beijing,” he said.
The EU was yesterday to set out a formal strategy to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific region and also counter China’s rising power.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said the bloc had not been informed about the AUKUS partnership and was trying to find out more.
Additional reporting by Reuters and The Guardian
ANTI-COERCION: EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said the EU wishes to bolster relations with Taiwan within the framework of its ‘one China’ policy The EU is to further its engagement with Taiwan to defend democracy, freedom and an open market, while bolstering cooperation in semiconductor supply chains, EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday. In her remarks at a European Parliament plenary session focused on Taiwan-EU relations, Vestager referred to China’s increasing military presence in the Taiwan Strait, including flying missions off the southwest coast of Taiwan. “This display of force may have a direct impact on European security and prosperity,” she said, adding that the EU encourages all parties to avoid any unilateral actions that might increase tensions across the Strait. “We Europeans
DOWN, NOT OUT: The election was not a total defeat, as Chen still received 73,433 votes against the recall, and his party has ‘grown up’ through the process, he said Voters in Taichung yesterday recalled Taiwan Statebuilding Party Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), making him the first legislator in the nation’s history to lose a recall election. A total of 77,899 votes were cast to recall Chen, while 73,433 voted against, the Taichung City Election Commission said, adding that 51.72 percent of the city’s second electoral district turned out. The Central Election Commission is to confirm the final figures within the next seven days, it said. Commission data showed that there are 294,976 eligible voters in the second district, comprised of Dadu (大肚), Shalu (沙鹿), Longjing (龍井), Wufong (霧峰) and Wurih (烏日) districts. Chen won
MILITARY RESOLVE: Washington does not want a cold war with Beijing, it just wants ‘China to understand that we’re not going to step back,’ Biden told a CNN town hall The US would come to Taiwan’s defense and has a commitment to defend the nation China claims as its own, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday, although the White House later said there was no change in policy toward Taiwan. “Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting when asked if the US would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has been facing mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty. While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long
AFTERSHOCKS LIKELY: A hiker was hurt by falling rocks at the Taroko National Park, while a tower crane was damaged at a construction site in New Taipei City A series of earthquakes yesterday injured several people, damaged buildings and disrupted transportation. A magnitude 4.5 earthquake struck 8km northeast of Hualien County Hall at 12:38pm at a depth of 23.8km, the Central Weather Bureau’s Web site showed. It was followed at 1:11pm by a magnitude 6.5 quake centered near Yilan County’s Nanao Township (南澳) at a depth of 66.8km. A magnitude 5.4 earthquake followed less than a minute later, with its epicenter near the county’s Datong Township (大同), at a depth of 67.3km. A magnitude 4.2 quake again struck Nanao at 2:05pm at a depth of 63km. The magnitude 6.5 earthquake was the strongest