China Condemns ‘Extremely Irresponsible’ US-Australia Nuclear-Powered Submarines Deal
After an emergency joint press conference was held last night between Britain, the US and Australia, China has condemned the US-Australia nuclear-powered submarines deal as ‘extremely irresponsible’.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, all met last night for an emergency press conference at the G7 in relation to Australia having just ended its $90 billion submarine deal with France.
Instead, Australia has since entered into a new pact with the United Kingdom and the United States so to obtain nuclear-powered submarines, which China views as ‘extremely irresponsible’.
On the morning of Thursday, September 16, the announcement was made by Morrison, addressing Biden and Johnson via virtual communications.
The announcement of the deal is reportedly aimed at China’s growing influence, according to The Guardian, who the US, Britain and Australia have just shown a move of united strength against, by making such a commitment.
Australia does not have a domestic nuclear industry and subsequently, despite pushes from defence analysts to develop such nuclear-powered submarines, the country has been unable to do so, The Guardian reports.
China has since called the move one of ‘Cold War mentality’, according to ITV.
Morrison told reporters that the submarines are intended to be built in Adelaide, Australia ‘in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States’.
However, he clarified that Australia was ‘not seeking to establish a nuclear industry’ or ‘a civil nuclear capability’, going on to explain that the country will ‘continue to meet all of [its] nuclear non-proliferation obligations’.
According to Morrison, it will take 18 months to prepare for the new deal, and due to Australia’s ‘lack of local capability’, the US and UK would be required to give the country ‘leverage expertise’.
In order to bring an Australian ‘capability into service at the earliest achievable date’, the two countries’ own submarine programmes would need to be built on.
The deal will adhere to the ‘highest standards for safeguards, verification, and accountancy measures to ensure the non-proliferation, safety, and security of nuclear material and technology’, according to Morrison.
On Wednesday, September 15, the Labour party was told about the new security pact, despite having been historically opposed to Australia developing nuclear power in the country.
Johnson, Biden and Morrison all stressed that nuclear weapons would not be carried on the submarines which would be delivered under the security partnership.
Johnson clarified that the first job would be to help Australia get a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, due to their capability gap. He emphasised that the ‘submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors – not armed with nuclear weapons’.
A separate meeting also took place last night in Paris between Morrison and Emmanuel Macron, the French president.
A $90 billion programme between Australia and France’s Naval Group had been set to take place for the country to acquire 12 new Attack-class submarines. However, delays and issues with cost and local industry involvement caused the deal to collapse.
The new submarines, designed by the French, were expected to replace the fleet of six Collins-class submarines and were slated to be operational in 2034.
Senior administration officials for President Biden said any questions could be answered by Australia ‘about their arrangement with France for conventional submarines’.
Officials stated that the new plans for the nuclear-powered submarines would prove ‘challenging’ and be the ‘biggest strategic step that Australia has taken in generations’.
In a briefing, an official said:
I do want to just underscore that it’s very hard to overestimate how challenging and how important this endeavour will be.
Australia does not have a nuclear domestic infrastructure. They have made a major commitment to go in this direction. This will be a sustained effort over years.
They concluded by saying that they have ‘high confidence’ if not, ‘complete confidence’ that Australia would be ‘effective’ in proceeding on the course of the deal.
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