(September 16, 2021) — A day after the US, UK, and Australia announced a new military pact to counter China, Australia’s defense minister said more US military aircraft and troops will deploy to the country.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Canberra made the comments in Washington after a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Dutton said the US and Australia agreed to enhance “our force posture cooperation.”
“This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of US military aircraft to Australia,” he said.
When asked about more US troops deploying to Australia, Dutton said, “So I do have an aspiration to make sure that we can increase the numbers of troops through the rotations. “
He also hinted that Australia might host US medium-range missiles that were previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the Trump administration withdrew from in 2019. Dutton signaled Australia is open to basing “different ordinances,” which he said was in “Australia’s best interest.”
With the Pentagon focused on China, Australia will play a significant role in Washington’s strategy in the Pacific. The nuclear-powered submarines Canberra gains from this new pact will give Australia more abilities to patrol sensitive areas like the South China Sea.
Australia is a member of the Quad, a security dialogue that also includes the US, India, and Japan, and is seen as a foundation for a possible anti-China NATO-style alliance in Asia. Biden is trying to strengthen the group and will host the first in-person summit between Quad leaders later this month.
China Hits Out at ‘Highly irresponsible’ Aukus Defence Pact
Between US, Britain and Australia; Warns of Pacific Arms Race
• Beijing says the new three-way partnership to give Australia
nuclear-powered submarines will ‘severely damage’ peace and stability
• Foreign ministry spokesman challenges Canberra to reflect on
whether it sees China as a ‘partner or a threat’
(September 16, 2021) — China has warned that Australia’s new defence agreement with the United States and Britain is “extremely irresponsible” and risks triggering an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.
The surprise announcement on Wednesday of the newly formed “Aukus” alliance between the three Anglosphere nations means Australia will become the second country in the world, after the UK, to receive nuclear-powered submarine technology from the US.
The partnership will see the United States and Britain providing Australia with the technology to deploy the vessels in future.
Only six countries in the world — America, Britain, China, France, India and Russia — currently operate nuclear-powered submarines.
US officials said these vessels could be deployed for longer periods than other subs, were harder to detect and would provide a stronger deterrent.
The leaders of the three nations stressed Australia will not be fielding nuclear weapons, but officials said they would look into jointly developing other advanced technologies such artificial intelligence, cyber, undersea and quantum technology.
Chinese analysts expect the decision will draw Australia further into Washington’s network of containment against Beijing’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday the three-way pact would “severely damage regional peace and stability and intensify the arms race”.
Zhao called the move “extremely irresponsible” and that China will closely monitor future developments.
He said countries should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties, and called on Australia to rethink its position on China.
“What is most urgent now is that Australia needs to face the reasons behind the deterioration of our bilateral ties, and seriously reflect on whether it should regard China as a partner or a threat,” he said.
Lu Xiang, a research fellow studying China-US relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing will need to closely monitor the changes in Australia’s military capabilities and implications for China’s security.
“The move means Australia is tying itself completely to America’s chariot. It will mean that Australia will be equipped with surprise attack capabilities. China and other regional countries will be looking at Australia differently from now on,” said Lu.
“It is unlikely to change the overall strategic balance in the region, but we will need answers on what this new fleet of submarines will be capable of, and whether they will carry nuclear weapons.”
Speaking after Wednesday’s announcement, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was also planning to enhance its long-range strike capability, by arming its its Hobart-class destroyers with Tomahawk cruise missiles and extending the range of the air-to-surface missiles on its jets.
“This is a surprising and extremely welcome sign of the Biden administration’s willingness to empower close allies like Australia through the provision of highly advanced defence technology assistance — something that Washington has rarely been willing to do,” said Ashley Townshend, director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
“It suggests a new and more strategic approach to working collectively with allies on Indo-Pacific defence priorities.”
The three leaders did not mention China in their joint press conference. President Joe Biden did not mention the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping when they spoke last Thursday, but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”, according to a briefing from a US official.
Morrison is due to travel to Washington next week to meet Biden as well as the leaders of the two other Quad members, India and Japan.
He said he had spoken to his Indian and Japanese counterparts, Narendra Modi and Yoshihide Suga, ahead of the announcement, and indicated he wanted to continue to engage with China despite the two nations ’ deteriorating relationship.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the new pact will intensify the geopolitical and military rivalry between the major powers in the region.
“If Aukus and the Quad for that matter would presage more military presence in China’s immediate neighbourhood we could likely expect intensification of such presence and counter-presence activities by these regional militaries. That, of course, means forces operating in close proximity at greater regularity.
“At the very least, we would expect China to keep at its military build-up, and in some other areas such as tech, push on with its agenda.”
The new pact means Canberra will abandon a previous submarine deal with France — a move that caused intense anger in Paris.
“It’s a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo radio, adding that he had spoken to his Australian counterpart days ago and received no serious indication of the move.
A statement from Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly also attacked the US, saying: “The American choice to push aside an ally and European partner like France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … shows a lack of consistency France can only note and regret.”
A Chinese nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarine.
The announcement prompted concern elsewhere in Europe because it came on the eve of the launch of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc had not been informed about the security partnership and was trying to find out more.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that the country would block Australian nuclear-powered vessels from passing through its waters, in line with a long-standing anti-nuclear policy, but said the arrangement “in no way changes our security and intelligence ties with these three countries, as well as Canada” [the other member of the Five Eyes alliance].
Zhu Feng, Professor of International Relations at Nanjing University, said the new alliance cements Washington’s shift of focus from Europe to the Asia Pacific, and that he expects more countries, such as Japan, to join in future.
“This is a step up for US Indo-Pacific strategy … It leads to questions about whether we are entering a nuclear arms race in the South Pacific,” said Zhu.
Arun Prakash, a former Indian chief of naval staff, said the development could add “substance” to the Quad, which is currently a loosely defined security dialogue.
“Everywhere China is getting its way,” Prakash said. “They don’t seem to listen to reason. There are talks going on, negotiations going on but they are all fruitless.
“So I think it was about time that there was a show of spine and a show of resolve by all the other countries, which are suffering from China’s aggressive posture. Of all the countries India is actually the worst sufferer.”
Additional reporting by John Power and Robert Delaney
‘A Stab in the Back’: France Furious
Over US-Australia Nuclear Submarine Deal
(September 16, 2021) — France is outraged over being left out of a military pact between the US, UK, and Australia that is meant to counter China. The military technology-sharing deal will give Canberra a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, causing Australia to scrap a submarine-building deal with France worth about $65 billion ($90 billion in Australian dollars).
“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday.
Le Drian also released a joint statement with Florence Parly, France’s minister of armed forces, condemning the US’s move. “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”
France is so upset with the US that it canceled a gala that was to take place on Friday at the French embassy in Washington DC. The event was to commemorate the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,” when the French navy came to America’s aid in the Revolutionary War in 1781. France’s top navy officer traveled to Washington for the event but is now heading back to Paris.
The New York Times reported that the US only informed France of the pact, known as AUKUS, hours before it was announced on Wednesday. France’s ambassador in the US said he learned about the deal in media reports before receiving a call from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Thursday that despite being left out of the deal, France is still a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific. “We cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond around the world. We’re going to continue to do so. We place fundamental value on that relationship, on that partnership,” he said.
With the US so focused on countering China, cooperation countries in what the US calls the Indo-Pacific region are vital to Washington’s strategy. Canberra’s defense minister said the pact means more US troops and aircraft will be deployed to Australia.
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