NEW DELHI: The US, the UK and Australia have finalised a multi-billion dollar nuclear submarine deal under their grouping AUKUS. They have stated that the move is to keep the Indo-Pacific region "free and open."
According to the deal, beginning in the early 2030’s the US will sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia with the potential of two more if needed.
This would provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines in an effort to counter the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific. The announcement was made after President Biden, British PM Rishi Sunak and Australian PM Anthony Albanese attended a Summit meeting.
"Coupled with the Quad (which the US and Australia are a part of including India and Japan) – we have the ability to expand the maritime domain of democracies and peace, stability and some security. I think that is important,’’ said US President Joe Biden after the submarine deal was announced in San Diego. "These boats will not have any nuclear weapons of any kind on them,’’ Biden reiterated.
At present only six countries have nuclear submarines – the US, China, Russia, France, India and the UK.
Meanwhile, China has strongly criticised the deal, with Beijing alleging that this deal violated the spirit of an international treaty that is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
India, which is a member of the Quad, has abstained from making any comments yet, while Australia has countered it by saying that the submarines are nuclear powered not armed with weapons.
"The latest joint statement from the US, UK and Australia demonstrates that the three countries for the sake of their own geopolitical interests are walking further and further down the path of error and danger,’’ China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin said in Bejing on Tuesday.
The Chinese mission in the UN accused the three countries of fuelling an arms race and said the deal was a "textbook case of a double standard."
"China did not want to communicate for the sake of communicating. The US side should come forward sincerely with practical actions to promote China-US relations,’’ Wenbin added.
Biden had also earlier said that he would speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping but didn’t share any details.
While AUKUS is celebrating this announcement, experts point out that this is likely to further destabilise the Indo-Pacific and the large military and maritime presence could instigate China to ramp up its presence in Taiwan Straits which could eventually have a bearing on global trade.
"This announcement is likely to escalate tension between US and China and also increase China’s military footprint in the Indo-Pacific. The relations between US and China have been at an all-time low especially after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year in August,’’ according to an expert on US-China relations. (AIR NEWS)