US President Joe Biden and Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, and Scott Morrison of Australia announced this during a joint press conference. The most important part of the pact is that Australia will have nuclear submarines. However, they are not armed with nuclear weapons.
In response, China accused the countries of having a “Cold War mentality”. The Chinese embassy in Washington says the countries should “shaken their ideological biases”. Although China is not explicitly mentioned in the agreements between the three countries, insiders told news site, Politico, that the initiative is seen as a way to form a united front against the growing Chinese influence in the region.
Prime Minister Morrison spoke of an “improved” partnership during the press conference. “This is a forever partnership that will enable Australia to protect our national security interests, to keep Australians safe,” Morrison said. “And to work with our partners across the region to achieve the stability and security of our region.”
The British Prime Minister spoke of a “new chapter” in the friendly relationship between the countries. “The first task of this partnership will be to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines,” Johnson said. With the pact, Australia will become the seventh country in the world to have nuclear submarines.
Frustrated reactions did not only come from China. France is also angry. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris called it a “deplorable decision”. The French company Naval Group spoke of a “great disappointment” because the Australians have chosen to work with the Americans and British.
The company had hoped to deliver diesel and electricity-powered submarines worth more than $31 billion to Australia. An agreement on this was concluded five years ago, which is no longer going ahead due to the AUKUS pact.
“This decision goes against the letter and spirit of the cooperation between France and Australia,” the French ministry said, emphasizing the relationship was based on “political trust”. According to the French, AUKUS reinforces the need to raise “the issue of European strategic autonomy” loud and clear. “There is no other credible way to defend our interests and our values in the world.”
President Biden said that working with the British and Australians should make it possible to tackle the “challenges of the 21st century” together. He called the establishment of AUKUS a “historic step” and pointed out that the three countries’ armed forces fought side by side during two world wars.
During his speech, Biden confirmed that AUKUS is also aimed at ensuring that the countries maintain their lead in the military field and in the development of “critical” technologies, for example, in artificial intelligence.