President Joe Biden has signed a new military compact to arm Australia with nuclear-powered submarines and strengthen America’s presence there, an apparent response to the threat of a rising China.
According to the Washington Examiner, the landmark agreement, called AUKUS, also includes Great Britain and has reportedly left an excluded France irate.
Australia joins the club
As part of AUKUS, the United States will deploy more military units to Australia, Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton said.
“I do have an aspiration to make sure that we can increase the numbers of troops through the rotations,” Dutton said, according to the Examiner. “The air capability will be enhanced, our maritime capability enhanced, and certainly the force posture enhanced.”
But the centerpiece of the deal is the submarines. The United States and the U.K. belong to an exclusive club of six nations with nuclear-powered subs that Australia will now join, NBC News notes.
Biden is saying the deal has nothing to do with China, but the agreement is seen as evidence of a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy to counter Beijing’s expansion that has made Australia a more important U.S. ally than before.
“Stabbed in the back”
European allies such as France, meanwhile, feel betrayed by their exclusion from the alliance.
France in particular was blindsided, as they reportedly had a $40 billion deal to supply Australia with conventional, diesel-powered subs that Australia called inferior to the special nuclear technology being supplied by America and Britain. France condemned the “unilateral” move and said it was a “stab in the back,” according to NBC.
“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region…shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” France’s foreign minister and armed forces minister Florence said in a joint statement shared by NBC.
China responds, Indonesia fears “arms race”
Meanwhile, China has condemned the alliance and said it would make the region more unstable. The deal “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, exacerbated the arms race and undermined international nuclear nonproliferation efforts,” China’s foreign minster said, according to NBC.
Indonesia similarly said they were anxious about an “arms race and power projection in the region” making the Pacific more volatile, the Associated Press reported, but other countries, such as Singapore, reacted positively.
New Zealand reportedly said they will not allow nuclear submarines in their waters.