Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images
In a rare move, President Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States plans to share its nuclear submarine technology with Australia.
The announcement comes as Biden tries to realign US national security and economic policies around the threat posed by China.
Only once did the United States share with Great Britain what a high-ranking administrative official described as “extremely sensitive” technology – more than 60 years ago, in 1958. The UK will participate in the new trilateral security partnership AUKUS.
The decision comes amid escalating tensions in recent years over territorial disputes in the South China Sea – a major shipping route with oil and natural gas resources – with China establishing military outposts on several small reclaimed islands. The US and other regional partners have increased their military presence in the region, and the US is in the process of realigning its military stance on the Indo-Pacific.
Prior to the White House’s formal announcement, a senior US government official insisted that the new security cooperation with Australia was not specifically aimed at China.
“I think one of the things that the United States has done most effectively in the Indo-Pacific is to ensure peace and stability and to be the ultimate guarantor of this rules-based order,” said the senior official. “In recent years there have been questions: Does the United States still have the stomach? Do we have the wit and the wisdom that we want to keep playing this role? What President Biden is saying with this initiative is, ‘Count us in.’ “
It’s about nuclear propulsion, not nuclear weapons
The three AUKUS countries will put in an 18-month effort to figure out how best to share the nuclear submarine propulsion technology that will enable the Australian Navy’s submarines to travel faster and further, with more Camouflage.
“Australia has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons,” the official told reporters.
The Biden government is working to overcome the 20 year war in Afghanistan and the chaotic US exit from Kabul. Biden has put fighting China at the center of his economic and national security efforts, calling it the greatest challenge of the era.
Australia’s Prime Minister will be visiting next week
Biden will meet in person at the White House next week with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia – the so-called “Quad”.
He invited the leaders of Japan and South Korea as the first two foreign leaders to visit the White House in person earlier this year. His first trip abroad to the Group of Seven and NATO in June also revolved around China’s economic and security threats.
Only for the second time since taking office has Biden spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. The senior US official said he did not discuss the new security partnership “in specific terms,” but stressed to Xi that the United States wanted to play a strong role in the region.