1 of 5 | President Joe Biden (C) announced a major agreement with Australia and Britain to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that will be used to counter the aggression by Chinese naval forces throughout the Pacific region.
Biden, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia (L) and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom made the agreement public on Monday as the three met at Naval Base San Diego. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
March 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden announced a major agreement with Australia and Britain to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that would serve to counter aggression by Chinese naval forces throughout the Pacific.
Biden, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom made the agreement public on Monday as the three met at Naval Base San Diego.
"Today, as we stand at the inflection point in history, where the hard work of enhancing deterrents and promoting stability is going to affect the prospect of peace to come, the United States can ask for no better partners in the Indo-Pacific, where so much of our shared future will be written," Biden said.
"Forging this new partnership, we're showing again how democracies can deliver our own security and prosperity. And not just for us but for the entire world."
The trilateral strategic partnership, known as AUKUS, was formed in 2021 in response to increasing Chinese military provocations in Southeast Asia.
Monday's meeting in San Diego marks the first step by the trio of NATO allies in the plan to build an armada of underwater attack vessels, which would launch first in Australia "with the aim of working hand in glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific."
"Together we will deliver SSN-AUKUS -- a trilaterally-developed submarine based on the United Kingdom's next-generation design that incorporates technology from all three nations, including cutting edge U.S. submarine technologies," a joint statement from the White House said.
"Australia and the United Kingdom will operate SSN-AUKUS as their submarine of the future. Australia and the United Kingdom will begin work to build SSN-AUKUS in their domestic shipyards within this decade."
The development of the nuclear-powered fleet will be undertaken in phases, beginning with members of the Australian military training with the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy at U.S. and British submarine industrial bases this year, according to the White House.
The United States plans to sell Australia three Virginia-class submarines early in the 2030s and Britain will deliver the first SSN-AUKUS to the Royal Navy later in the decade The first SSN-AUKUS to be built in Australia will be completed in the early 2040s.
"The AUKUS agreement we confirm here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia's defense capability in all of our history," Albanese said.
Biden said Virginia-class submarines have "cutting-edge" propulsion technology with "unmatched stealth and maneuverability."
Although nuclear-powered, the submarines would only use conventional weapons in the event of combat. Australia Biden reiterated that it will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons and Australia will not produce nuclear fuel.
"AUKUS has one overriding objective, to enhance the stability of the Indo-Pacific amid rapidly shifting global dynamics," Biden said.
The meeting comes a day after Sunak announced he would seek an additional $6 billion in British defense spending over the next two years to respond to threats posed by China and Russia.
Sunak said Sunday that the new funds, which follow nearly $30 billion in defense spending in 2020, will go toward replenishing and bolstering ammunition stocks, modernizing Britain's nuclear enterprise and investing in the AUKUS nuclear program.
The submarine arrangement got off to a rocky start after Australia backed out of a deal with France, choosing instead to partner with the United States and Britain on the $66 billion deal to build the vessels.
The high-stakes debacle prompted the French president to recall his ambassadors from Washington, but tensions have since eased after Biden hosted a White House state dinner in honor of the French president, while Australia's prime minister also smoothed things over by announcing $578 million in funds to France to settle the matter.
Albanese said the project would create about 20,000 jobs for the Australian economy over the next 30 years, although details have not been disclosed yet on how many submarines will actually be built there and elsewhere.
"It's a new dawn in San Diego and a new dawn tomorrow for Australia's defense policy tomorrow," Albanese said before departing for the United States,