Biden to announce Australia nuclear submarine deal at AUKUS meeting

© Dana Jensen, AP

President Joe Biden meets on Monday with the leaders of Australia and Britain at a California naval base for an expected announcement of a nuclear submarines deal aimed at strengthening Western military muscle in the face of a rising China.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will join Biden at the base in San Diego 18 months after their countries formed an alliance called AUKUS with the principal goal of bringing Australia into the fold of navies possessing nuclear-powered submarines.

While Australia has ruled out deploying atomic weapons, its acquisition of the nuclear-powered vessels will transform its role in a US-led project to maintain the decades-old balance of power in the Pacific.

According to US media, Biden will announce a long-term, multi-stage plan destined to make Australia a full partner in fielding top-secret US nuclear technology previously only shared with historic ally Britain.

As many as five Virginia-class US nuclear-powered submarines will be sold to Australia over the next decade, The Washington Post reported. Australia and Britain would then both embark on building a new submarine model, using US propulsion technology and dubbed the SSN-AUKUS, with delivery in the 2040s.

While the plan will require years to come to fruition, it marks an ambitious shift from Australia and the United States as they contemplate the rapid expansion of Chinese military power, including Beijing's building up a sophisticated naval fleet and turning artificial islands into offshore bases.


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