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Australia signs deal to get nuke submarines with US, UK help; France reacts

President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and his British counterpart Boris Johnson announced the partnership in a video meeting, which will raise eyebrows in Beijing.

Australia signs deal to get nuke submarines with US UK help gcw
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Washington D.C., First Published Sep 16, 2021, 10:02 AM IST
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In the face of rising rivalry with China, the US unveiled a new alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom on Wednesday, including a new Australian nuclear submarine fleet and cruise missiles. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and his British counterpart Boris Johnson announced the partnership in a video meeting, which will raise eyebrows in Beijing. France has reacted strongly after negotiating a multibillion-dollar sale of conventional submarines to Australia.

Morrison stated that the globe is growing increasingly complicated, particularly in the Indo-Pacific area, which impacts everyone. The Indo-future Pacific's will influence all of our futures. Meanwhile, Johnson stated that they will work "hand in hand to maintain Indo-Pacific peace and security." According to Biden and the other leaders, the submarines will not be nuclear-armed and will solely be fueled by nuclear reactors. Morrison then said that Australia would also acquire long-range US Tomahawk cruise missiles. The three presidents did not name China while announcing the AUKUS cooperation, but their intentions were apparent.

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During a visit to Southeast Asia last week, Vice President Kamala Harris accused Beijing of "actions that... threaten the rules-based international order," citing its aggressive claims in the South China Sea, where frequent territorial disputes have erupted between China and its neighbours in recent years.

The three nations' technical and naval officials will spend the next 18 months debating how to carry out Australia's upgrading, which Johnson described as "one of the world's most complicated and technically difficult undertakings, spanning decades." A senior Biden administration official claimed AUKUS would join forces on "cyber, AI — particularly applied AI — quantum technologies, and certain underwater capabilities as well," in addition to the submarine fleet.

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According to a Biden administration official, the move is "unique" because Britain is the only country the US has ever helped construct a nuclear fleet. Biden stated that France is an "important partner and ally" in the Indo-Pacific to appease Paris. However, the new alliance jeopardised Australia's conventional submarine contract with France, which President Emmanuel Macron had personally endorsed.

On Thursday morning, Morrison stated that Australia would not proceed with the transaction. According to a statement from France's foreign minister, the choice to go with US submarines was "contrary to the text and spirit of the collaboration that prevailed between France and Australia." 

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