China Isn't Thrilled With US' Nuclear Sub Deal

US and UK teaming up to provide nuclear subs to Australia in move to counter China in Indo-Pacific
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2023 6:37 AM CDT

Three Western allies came together Monday to announce details on what Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is calling the "biggest single investment in Australia's defense capability in all of its history." It's the AUKUS pact, a deal in which the US and Britain will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to bolster security in the Indo-Pacific, specifically as a counter to China's increasing influence in the region, reports the Washington Post. "We stand at the inflection point in history where the hard work of enhancing deterrence and promoting stability is going to affect the prospects of peace for decades to come," said President Biden on Monday at a San Diego naval shipyard, with Albanese and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at his side (hear a snippet of his speech here). "I'm proud to be your shipmates," he added to his counterparts. More on the announcement:

  • The subs: They're to be built by BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, with three Virginia-class attack vessels sold to Australia first, per Reuters. Delivery is set to start in the early 2030s, and there will be an option for Australia to buy two more subs after that, if needed, according to a joint statement by the partners.
  • Beyond that: After that initial part of the deal, originally announced in September 2021, the UK will sell Australia its own submarine, with US technology incorporated. The ultimate goal, however, will be to set up Australia to build its own fleet by the 2040s. Aussie civilians and service members will begin training with US and UK naval teams later this year.
  • Jobs: Albanese noted that Australia building its own fleet would create about 20,000 shipyard jobs over three decades. Sunak added that thousands of construction jobs would also be generated in Derby and Barrow-in-Furness in the UK, reports the BBC.
  • Price tag: This arrangement is set to be especially costly to Australia—about $245 billion by 2055, per Reuters and CNN. Biden, meanwhile, added that the US would be pumping an additional $4.6 billion into the production and maintenance of its own submarine fleet.

  • Geopolitical undertones: The Post cites a US senior administration official who points to Russia's war in Ukraine as being a prime signal that such a move is necessary. Other examples of nations expanding their own military capabilities of late include Finland and Sweden vying for NATO membership, as well as Germany and Japan raising their respective defense budgets.
  • 'Smart strategy': In an opinion piece for Bloomberg, retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis emphasizes this deal doesn't provide nuclear weapons per se, but that the "undersea capability provided by nuclear reactors is profound." He writes that the subs "will have a chilling effect on China's surface forces in the region," as well as create a "rallying point" for other countries eyeing such technology. "The more pertinent question," Stavridis notes, "is whether China will do anything about it."
  • China's reaction: Not surprisingly, it isn't a receptive one, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin noting Monday that the AUKUS partners had "completely ignored the concerns of the international community and gone further down a wrong and dangerous road," per CNN. He added the deal would "stimulate an arms race, undermine the international nuclear nonproliferation system, and damage regional peace and stability."
  • A miffed France: China isn't the only one with sore feelings over the deal. The Post notes that Biden has had to spend months soothing France, as a submarine agreement between that nation and Australia was scrapped to make way for the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) deal.
(More submarines stories.)

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