The US, UK and Australia have revealed details of a plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines aimed at limiting China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Under the military alliance between the three countries (Aukus), Australia will get its first nuclear-powered submarines, at least three, from the US.
American president Joe Biden he said that the purpose of the agreement is to strengthen peace in the region. He emphasized that there will be submarines “nuclear powered, not armed with nuclear weapons”.
With the British and Australian prime ministers To Rishi Sunak and to Anthony Albanes it’s Biden in San Diego, California, said the deal would not jeopardize Australia’s commitment to remain a nuclear-weapon-free state.
Australia will become only the second country after the UK to receive America’s elite nuclear-powered technology, the BBC reports.
Such propulsion allows the submarines to operate longer and travel faster than Australia’s existing diesel-powered submarines. Australia will also become capable of launching long-range attacks.
Australian sailors will begin training in the use of nuclear-powered submarines at American and British bases this year.
Starting in 2027, the US and the UK will station a smaller number of nuclear-powered submarines in Perth, Australia. In the early 1930s, Australia will purchase three American Virginia-class submarines, with an option to purchase two more.
After that, they were to design and build an entirely new nuclear-powered submarine for the British and Australian navies.
Biden said all three countries are committed to ensuring that the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open. According to him, democratic countries provide security and prosperity “not only to myself, but to the whole world”.
The plan will cost Australia about US$245 billion over the next 30 years. It is the largest investment in the Australian military. Prime Minister Albanese said the construction of submarines in Australian shipyards would create thousands of jobs.
British Prime Minister Sunak said that the challenges to global stability after the creation of Aukus are even greater, citing Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Sunak also announced an increase in his country’s military spending by almost six billion dollars over the next two years.
While Aukus members talk about strengthening peace in the region, China warns that the new agreement on nuclear submarines “harms peace and stability”.
China’s foreign ministry reiterated last week that the Aukus alliance could spark a new arms race.
Warnings about exploiting an exception
The Aukus plan for nuclear-powered submarines is the first example of exploiting a loophole in the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to transfer fissile nuclear material and nuclear technology from a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear-weapon state.
This is Article 14, which allows the use of fissile material for non-explosive military purposes, such as nuclear propulsion, to be exempt from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and controls.
Experts worry that using this exemption could set a precedent for other countries to hide highly enriched uranium or plutonium, the core of nuclear weapons, from international scrutiny in this way, the Guardian reports.