Australia will receive at least eight nuclear submarines as part of the newly-formed AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) defense alliance, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.
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On Wednesday evening, Morrison together with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden declared the formation of the new AUKUS defense and security partnership, “which will protect and defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific.”
The first initiative under the AUKUS alliance will be the creation of nuclear-powered submarine technology for the Royal Australian Navy.
“Under AUKUS, the three nations will focus immediately on identifying the optimal pathway to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for Australia,” Morrison announced in a statement posted on his official website.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, the Australian TV channel ABC reported that Australia had decided to create a new nuclear submarine fleet and to abandon the contract with the French Naval Group worth 90 billion Australian dollars (US $66 billion) in favor of a joint project with the United States and Great Britain, which offered Australia “a conventional submarine of exceptional quality.” The decision was explained by the acceleration of changes in regional security.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, in response to the formation of the defensive partnership between the United States, Great Britain and Australia, has already urged countries to get rid of the Cold War mentality and to refrain from creating alliances against anyone.
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The head of the French upper chamber’s commission on foreign affairs and defense said on Thursday that he is shocked by Australia’s withdrawal from the $90 billion submarines agreement with France’s Naval Group company.
Australia preferred cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines under the newly established alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom.
“I am deeply shocked by this news, as well as the circumstances in which we received it,” commission chairman Christian Cambon said, as quoted by the upper chamber.
“We need to study all the consequences of this decision, I think primarily about Naval Group employees, More generally, we will have to think about the repetitive attitudes of some of our allies who behave more like opponents than loyal competitors,” Cambon continued.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters after Australia announced it would get new submarines as part of a new defense partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom.
“The anchor of this arrangement are nuclear-powered submarines. It will be very clear to all New Zealanders and to Australia why New Zealand would not wish to be a part of their project,” Ardern said. Morrison understands and accepts New Zealand’s position on the issue, the prime minister added.
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Ardern emphasized the long-standing nuclear-free policy of the country, which does not prevent it from taking the leading position in the Indo-Pacific region. The official hailed the engagement of other states in the region and said that New Zealand’s partnership with the UK, US, Canada and Australia is “not diminished” by the AUKUS deal.
New Zealand has pursued a policy of “nuclear-free zone” since 1984, which prohibits any foreign ships carrying nuclear weapons from entering its territorial waters. In 1987 the provisions were expanded and became legally binding.