With a newly formed defense alliance with Britain and the United States, Australia has formally launched a highly controversial program to equip its naval forces with nuclear submarines.
The agreement is the first to be signed publicly since the three countries in September announced the formation of a defense alliance, AUKUS, to confront strategic tensions in the Pacific, where China and the United States disagree.
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Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton and diplomats from the United States and Britain signed an agreement allowing the exchange of sensitive “naval nuclear information” between their nations.
“The agreement will allow for cooperation, which will further improve our mutual defense position,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday ahead of Dutton’s signing ceremony in Canberra with US charge d’affaires Michael Goldman and British High Commissioner (Ambassador) Victoria Treadell.
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The AUKUS agreement will provide Australia with eight advanced nuclear submarines capable of long-range emissions. In addition, the agreement allows for the sharing of cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum and unspecified subsea capabilities.
Beijing has expressed anger over the deal, describing it as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to the region’s stability.
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France was also furious at the move, after finding out at the last minute that its own diesel-electric submarine contract with Australia, which was estimated to be worth $ 65 billion, has been scrapped.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stood by his handling of the deal. Unexpectedly, he states that it was in the national interest of his country and that he knew the agreement was bound to tatter some feathers.