- Suranjana Tewari
- BBC reporter from Singapore
September 19, 2021 at 7:31 a.m.
A new security partnership AUKUS will be established in the Asia-Pacific region, and the United Kingdom and the United States will provide Australia with the technology and capabilities to build and deploy nuclear-powered submarines. Although US officials stated that the move was not aimed at confronting China, many experts said that the AUKUS agreement marked a shift in the region’s strategy and policy model.
Moreover, the timing of the new agreement is particularly important: just one month after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, it sparked suspicion from all walks of life about U.S. commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
The UK is also eager to participate more in the Asia-Pacific region, especially after its withdrawal from the European Union and Australia’s increasing attention to China’s influence.
“This is a “big event” because it clearly shows that the three countries are drawing a clear line of boundaries, initiating and resisting the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Guy Bo, Senior Director, National Security Advisor, Northern Territory Government, Australia Guy Boekenstein told the BBC.
“This also publicly demonstrates our common position on this and our commitment to a stable and secure Indo-Pacific region-this region has led to the prosperity of the region over the past 70 years, including China’s economic growth.” He added .
What is involved in the agreement?
The agreement involves the sharing of information and technology in multiple fields, including military intelligence and quantum technology, as well as the procurement of cruise missiles.
But nuclear-powered submarines are the key. They will be built in Adelaide, South Australia, and the United States and Britain will provide technical advice for their production. Nuclear-powered submarines are more concealed than conventional submarines. They run quietly, can move easily, and are more difficult to spot.
“Nuclear submarines have strong defensive capabilities and therefore have an impact on the region. Only six countries in the world have nuclear submarines. They are a very powerful deterrent capability and they have not been given nuclear weapons.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) ) Said Michael Shoebridge, director of the security department.
Nuclear-powered submarines are more concealed than conventional submarines. They run quietly, and are faster and more difficult to spot than conventionally powered ships.
At least eight nuclear-powered submarines will be supported by this new agreement, although it is unclear when they will be deployed. And because Australia lacks nuclear infrastructure, this process will take longer. They will not have nuclear weapons and will only be powered by nuclear reactors.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Let me make it clear that Australia does not seek to acquire nuclear weapons or establish civilian nuclear capabilities.”
US President Joe Biden added that there will initially be an 18-month consultation period for the three-nation team to decide how to operate and ensure compliance with commitments. However, Yun Sun, co-director of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., said the move clearly shows that the United States and the United Kingdom have taken a big step towards exporting nuclear technology to a non-nuclear-powered country.
This is what makes this new partnership unique.
“This technology is very sensitive. Frankly speaking, this is an exception to our policy in many ways, and I don’t expect to do this in other situations in the future. We think this is a one-off,” a U.S. official told Reuters added that Washington had only shared nuclear propulsion technology once before with other countries, the United Kingdom in 1958.
How did Asia react?
In recent years, China has shown increasing strength and influence in the region.
“We heard news about cooperation, but then we saw Beijing’s threat to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and the rapid militarization of the South China Sea. Therefore, when it comes to strategic issues, initiating a boycott seems to be the only effective action for China. ,” Shubridge emphasized.
The United States has also been investing heavily in other partnerships in the region with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines, as well as India and Vietnam.
Shubridge believes that in the face of concerns about China’s growing power, the AUKUS alliance can benefit all these countries.
He added: “The region will understand this. This is part of a geopolitical transformation, and this transformation is driven by a big thing-the direction Xi Jinping is taking. The announcement of the establishment of AUKUS in response to the world’s largest democracy Participating more and more, the purpose is to resist Chinese power.”
According to reports, the response was positive, even if it was a silent acknowledgment.
Bonnie Glasser, director of the Asian project of the American think tank “German Marshall Fund” (German Marshall Fund), analyzed: “According to what I know from American officials, the United States and those interested in peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region After talking to allies, there was no negative response. In the region, people support the deterrence strategy and support the presence of the United States and the US military in the region.”
What does this mean for Australia-China relations?
There is no doubt that the one relationship changed by the agreement is the relationship between China and Australia. In the past, the two countries have always been strong trading partners, with a large number of Chinese students studying in Australia. However, after Australia supported a global investigation into the origin of the new coronavirus, the political relationship between the two parties has deteriorated sharply.
AUKUS shows that Australia is following the United States and the United Kingdom, but it also heralds a vote of confidence in Australia: Australia hopes to play a more active role in regional security in Asia.
“Australia’s possession of nuclear-powered submarines does not mean that its military power will be stronger than China. But it does change the balance of power in the region; because if China does face the security situation in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, this will affect what China must Military preparation or reaction. It has indeed changed the balance of power in the region.”
In response to the agreement, the Chinese Embassy in Washington stated that the countries concerned “should get rid of the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.” However, the response from mainland China may have been even stronger.
“What is Chinese-style disgust? People should expect a fierce countermeasure in Beijing… But this in turn gives Australia and the United States one more tool in the toolbox of deterring China,” Singapore think tank Southeast Asia Said William Choong, a senior researcher at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.