Beijing – China warned that the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are going down a “wrong and dangerous path”, after the announcement of an agreement on nuclear-powered submarines between the three countries.
With the idea of countering the weight of China in the Asia-Pacific region, Washington, London and Canberra launched on Monday their AUKUS alliance -announced 18 months ago and whose name is the English acronym for the three nations- to build a new generation of nuclear submarines, following Australia’s planned purchase of various devices.
“The latest joint statement by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia shows that the three countries are more and more going down a wrong and dangerous path, thinking of their own interests and disregarding the concern of the international community,” said the Chinese diplomatic spokesman. , Wang Wenbin.
Beijing had already urged the three countries, before Monday’s announcement, “to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games.”
Russia, which wants to strengthen its ties with China, also accused Western powers of fomenting “years of confrontation” in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The Anglo-Saxon world builds bloc structures like AUKUS, advancing NATO’s infrastructure in Asia, and seriously betting on long years of confrontation,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that it must “watch that no risk of proliferation emanates from this project,” in the words of its director general, Rafael Grossi.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden, together with the Prime Ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom, Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunak -respectively-, announced “unprecedented” cooperation from the San Diego naval base.
“We are in the best position to jointly face the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said the president.
The United States cannot have “best friends,” he added.
None of the three rulers explicitly mentioned China, but Biden stated that AUKUS would ensure that the Asia-Pacific area “remains free and open”, a formula that points to the desire to counteract Chinese influence in the region.
Albanese called it “the largest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in our entire history,” noting that the three countries are “united, above all else, by a world where peace and stability and security guarantee greater prosperity.
The Australian government estimates the multi-decade project will cost some $40 billion in the first 10 years and create around 20,000 jobs.
Australia is the second country after the UK to have access to secret US nuclear technology, Albanese insisted.
Sunak also insisted on efforts to increase the UK’s defense budget, which is committing itself to “the most important multilateral defense deal for generations.”
The attack submarine program, which seeks to adapt the Western military presence in the Pacific, will be carried out in three stages, the White House detailed.
And it will be based on a “crucial” principle, Biden reiterated: “These submarines will be nuclear-powered, but they will not carry nuclear weapons”, to respect the principle of non-proliferation.
First there will be a phase of familiarization with Australia, which does not have nuclear-powered submarines or nuclear technology.
Its marines, engineers and technicians will receive training from US and British personnel.
The objective is to deploy, starting in 2027 and on a rotating basis, four US submarines and one British submarine at the Australian base in Perth (west).
In a second tranche, Australia will buy three US nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines, with an option on two others. They have to be delivered from 2030.
In the third and most ambitious stage, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom will partner for a new generation of attack submarines called the SSN AUKUS.
These new aircraft, based on a British design with advanced American technology, will be built and deployed by the UK and Australia. They have to be delivered from the 2030s, early 2040s.
Australia will have to build a high-tech nuclear industry from scratch, says David Andrews, a military strategy analyst at the Australian National University.
“There are risks in the way you manage staff, build production lines, manage supplies and maintenance,” he warns.