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The leaders of Australia, UK, and U.S. detail the first steps in trilateral defence agreement

Photo: AP

Speaking from San Diego, March 13, AUKUS partners Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed details surrounding the trilateral defence agreement.

Initially announced September 15, 2021, and based in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines and the three nations will share intelligence and hardware.

The meeting took place against a backdrop of the American nuclear-powered USS Missouri, the same type of submarine Australia will purchase in the deal.

“The AUKUS agreement represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in all of our history,” Albanese said.

“This is the first time in 65 years and only the second time in history that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology.”

The AUKUS agreement, the Prime Minister said, will create around 20,000 jobs for Australians and will abide by the country’s strict adherence of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

“We will work with the state governments of South Australia and Western Australia to develop training programs to equip Australians with the skills they need to build these jobs.”

In a poke at the U.S. President, Albanese paid homage to a scandal in which the Biden suffered exaggerated university grades early in his political career.

“I'm proud to confirm, Mr. President, that they are all in the top 30 per cent of their class,” Albanese said, prompting laughter.

President Biden spoke of the importance that the pact presented to the allied nations.

“The ultimate goal isn't just selling subs in Australia - it's developing something new together we're calling it the SSN AUKUS,” President Biden said.

“I want to be clear to everyone from the outset, right off the bat so there's no confusion or misunderstanding in this critical point. These subs are powered, not nuclear armed subs.”

“Beginning this year Australian personnel will embed with crews on our schools and shipyards, we'll also begin to increase our port visits to Australia.”

“As we speak the nuclear-powered sub-USS Ashville is making a port call in Perth, and later this decade we'll be establishing a rotational presence of U.S. and UK powered subs in Australia to develop the work force Australia is going to need to build and maintain its fleet.”

UK Prime Minister Sunak said the benefits have already appeared in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion of the country last year.

“Faced with this new reality, it's more important than ever that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries, that's why the UK’s announcing a significant set in our defence budget,” Sunak said.

“This will allow us to replenish our war stock and modernize our nuclear enterprise, and our highest priority is to continue providing military aid to Ukraine because their security is our security.”

Reactions have been swift and nuanced.

China’s Foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, labelled the AUKUS agreement ‘typical cold war mentality,’ and a ‘dangerous path’.

The AUKUS agreement will be guided across administrations throughout the next three decades and is estimated to cost anywhere between AUD$100b to AUD$300b, with some claiming costs may bloat above that.


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