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Biden Announces UK, Australia Alliance 09/16 06:08

   President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States is forming a 
new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia that will allow 
for greater sharing of defense capabilities -- including helping equip 
Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. It's a move that could deepen a 
growing chasm in U.S.-China relations.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United 
States is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and 
Australia that will allow for greater sharing of defense capabilities -- 
including helping equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. It's a move 
that could deepen a growing chasm in U.S.-China relations.

   Biden made the announcement alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson 
and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined him by video to unveil 
the new alliance, which will be called AUKUS (pronounced AWK-us). The three 
announced they would quickly turn their attention to developing nuclear-powered 
submarines for Australia.

   "We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the 
Indo-Pacific over the long term," said Biden, who said the new alliance 
reflects a broader trend of key European partners playing a role in the 
Indo-Pacific. "We need to be able to address both the current strategic 
environment in the region and how it may evolve."

   None of the leaders mentioned China in their remarks. But the new security 
alliance is likely to be seen as a provocative move by Beijing, which has 
repeatedly lashed out at Biden as he's sought to refocus U.S. foreign policy on 
the Pacific in the early going of his presidency.

   Before the announcement, a senior administration official sought to play 
down the idea that the alliance was meant to serve as a deterrent against China 
in the region. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview 
the announcement, said the alliance's creation was not aimed at any one 
country, and is about a larger effort to sustain engagement and deterrence in 
the Indo-Pacific by the three nations.

   Johnson said the alliance would allow the three English-speaking maritime 
democracies to strengthen their bonds and sharpen their focus on an 
increasingly complicated part of the world.

   "We will have a new opportunity to reinforce Britain's place at the leading 
edge of science and technology, strengthening our national expertise, and 
perhaps most significant, the U.K., Australia and the U.S. will be joined even 
more closely together, " Johnson said.

   The three countries have agreed to share information in areas including 
artificial intelligence, cyber and underwater defense capabilities.

   But plans to support Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines are 
certain to catch Beijing's attention. To date, the only country that the United 
States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with is Britain. Morrison said 
Australia is not seeking to develop a nuclear weapons program and information 
sharing would be limited to helping it develop a submarine fleet.

   The Australian prime minister said plans for the nuclear-powered submarines 
would be developed over the next 18 months and the vessels would be built in 
Adelaide, Australia.

   Australia had announced in 2016 that French company DCNS had beat out 
bidders from Japan and Germany to build the next generation of submarines in 
Australia's largest-ever defense contract.

   Top French officials made clear they were unhappy with the deal, which 
undercuts the DCNS deal.

   "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, whether in terms of our 
values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, 
shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret," French foreign 
minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and defense minister Florence Parly said in a joint 

   Morrison said the three countries had "always seen through a similar lens," 
but, as the world becomes more complex, "to meet these new challenges, to help 
deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our 
partnership to a new level."

   Matt Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump 
administration, said that equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines 
was a significant step that would help the U.S. and its allies on the military 
and diplomatic fronts.

   Underwater warfare capabilities have been Beijing's "Achilles' heel," 
Pottinger said. A nuclear-powered submarine fleet would allow Australia to 
conduct longer patrols, giving the new alliance a stronger presence in the 

   "When you have a strong military, it provides a backdrop of deterrence that 
gives countries the confidence to resist bullying," said Pottinger, who is now 
a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "Part of 
the problem right now is that Beijing has gotten rather arrogant and it's been 
less willing to engage productively in diplomacy."

   The announcement of the new security alliance comes as the U.S.-China 
relationship has deteriorated. Beijing has taken exception to Biden 
administration officials repeatedly calling out China over human rights abuses 
in Xianjing province, the crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and 
cybersecurity breaches originating from China, as well as Beijing's handling of 
the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has labeled as "coercive and 
unfair" trade practices.

   Even as White House officials have repeatedly spoken out about China, 
administration officials say they want to work with Beijing on areas of common 
interest, including curbing the pandemic and climate change.

   Biden spoke by phone with China's President Xi Jinping last week amid 
growing frustration on the American side that high-level engagement between the 
two leaders' top advisers has been largely unfruitful.

   After the 90-minute phone call, official Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi 
expressed concerns that U.S. government policy toward China has caused "serious 
difficulties" in relations.

   Asked Tuesday about media reports that Xi had declined to commit to meet 
with him in person, the U.S. president said it was "untrue." Biden did not 
speak in "specific terms" about the new AUKUS alliance during last week's call 
with the Chinese leader, according to the senior administration official.

   The U.S. and Australia, along with India and Japan, are members of a 
strategic dialogue known as "the Quad." Biden is set to host fellow Quad 
leaders at the White House next week.

   Biden has sought to rally allies to speak with a more unified voice on China 
and has tried to send the message that he would take a radically different 
approach to China than former President Donald Trump, who placed trade and 
economic issues above all else in the U.S.-China relationship.

   In June, at Biden's urging, Group of Seven nations called on China to 
respect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province and to permit a full 
probe into the origins of COVID-19. While the allies broadly agreed to work 
toward competing against China, there was less unity on how adversarial a 
public position the group should take.

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