Reuters-By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Colin Packham
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on a National Security Initiative virtually with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
WASHINGTON/CANBERRA, Sept 16 (Reuters) – China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
Morrison said Australia would meet all its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
One U.S. official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – had indicated it wanted to do more in the region.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters.
Singapore said it had long had relations with Australia, Britain and the United States and hoped their grouping would contribute to peace and stability.
Japan said the three countries’ strengthening of security and defence cooperation was important for peace and security.
A U.S. official briefing before the announcement said Biden had not mentioned the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday, but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”.
U.S. officials said nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the new partnership, on which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive European foreign policy.
“We must survive on our own, as others do,” Borrell said as he presented a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.”
Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this programme, from workforce, to training requirements, to production timelines” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.
General Dynamics’ Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc (BWXT.N)
U.S. officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built.
A U.S. official said Washington had shared nuclear propulsion technology only once before – with Britain in 1958.
“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects… We view this as a one-off.”
Reporting by Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Mike Stone, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Colin Packham in Canberra; Additional reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard in Paris and Gabriel Crossley and Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by Alistair Bell, Richard Pullin, Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie
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