The UK, US and Australia have announced a landmark security pact in the Asia-Pacific in an effort to counter China’s military expansion in the region.
In a joint statement US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UK PM Boris Johnson said the new strategic alliance aims to “defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific” in what Mr Biden called a “historic step”.
The pact will permit Australia to construct nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using US-provided technology, becoming just the seventh country in the world to have operate them.
The so-called “Aukus” pact will also cover AI and other technologies.
The pact has been described as the most significant arrangement between the three nations since the Second World War, and marks the third time in 50 years that the US has shared its submarine technology, having previously shared technology with the UK alone.
A statement released by the UK government said:
“The UK, Australia and US are natural allies – while we may be separated geographically, our interests and values are shared. The AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever, creating a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity.
“This partnership will become increasingly vital for defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific region and, by extension, protecting our people back at home.”
On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also claimed that the pact would “preserve security and stability around the world” and even create “hundreds of high-skilled jobs”.
Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee explained in a detailed Twitter thread in response to the move:
“After years of bullying and trade hostility, and watching regional neighbours like the Philippines see encroachment into their waters Australia didn’t have a choice. And nor did the US or UK.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told BBC Breakfast this morning that the new alliance was required to counter China, and referenced its ongoing military intrusions into disputed areas such as those in the South China Sea.
In a briefing on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed the agreement “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo on Thursday morning that Australia’s decision to join the pact was a “stab in the back” after it consequently abandoned its €50 billion submarine deal with France.
Former Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn MP has also criticised the alliance via Twitter:
Starting a new cold war will not bring peace, justice and human rights to the world. #AUKUS
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 16, 2021
Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage also commented on the news shortly after:
The new security pact with the US and Australia would never have happened without Brexit. We are now reuniting with our real friends in the world.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) September 16, 2021