The UK will deploy a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia in a bid to contain China’s influence in the region, UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported on Friday.
The head of UK armed forces, Tony Radakin, is expected to reach an agreement on the issue at a naval conference in Sydney next week, thereby accomplishing London’s commitment under the AUKUS security alliance of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, according to the newspaper.
The submarines will be stationed on the west coast of Australia in the city of Perth until 2024 to carry out patrol operations. Australian submarine officers will be integrated into the UK crew to enhance their skills, the newspaper added.
The Royal Navy has declined to disclose how many of its submarines may be dispatched to Australia, saying that all operational details regarding the UK submarine fleet are classified. The UK defense ministry has also refused to comment on the issue, the Daily Mail said.
The AUKUS partnership, established in September 2021, aims at providing Australia with its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, with at least eight submarines planned to be delivered. Russia and China have raised concerns about the security challenges in the region stemming from the AUKUS establishment, saying that could result in the collapse of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Earlier, Australia scraped a whopping $90 billion submarine deal with France for conventional diesel-powered submarines in favor of nuclear-powered subs. The shocking termination sparked a diplomatic crisis, prompting Paris to recall its ambassadors from Australia and the US.
Later reports emerged that Australia would pay 555 million euros to the French shipbuilding firm Naval Group for breaching the contract.
“As part of the settlement, Australia will pay the Naval Group 555 million Euros which equates to around $830 million Australian,” Australian PM Anthony Albanese said in an address posted on social media. Albanese called this decision a “fair and an equitable settlement.”
Meanwhile, Australia recently said that it would strengthen its national security in the Indo-Pacific to keep potential adversaries at bay, Defense Minister Richard Marles announced.
“For the first time in decades, we are thinking hard about the security of our strategic geography, the viability of our trade and supply routes, and above all, the preservation of an inclusive regional order founded on rules agreed by all, not the coercive capabilities of a few,” Marles said.
Australia’s new government has committed to ensuring funding for this pathway, Marles said. The defense ministry has commissioned a force posture review for delivery in early 2023 that will determine how best to structure defense assets and personnel and cooperate with the US.
“I want to underline, first and foremost, that Australia will do its share. This government is resolved that Australia will take greater responsibility for its own security,” he promised.
He did not specify whom Australia saw as its potential adversaries, but the speech made several thinly-veiled references to China. Beijing struck a military pact with the Solomon Islands in April, less than 1,200 miles off Australia’s east coast.
The minister said that Australia would invest in expanding the range and lethality of its armed forces to “hold potential adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia,” including by developing longer-range strike weapons, cyber capabilities and area denial systems.
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