The AUKUS Deal’s Implications for China

The AUKUS Deal’s Implications for China
President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

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Last Wednesday, the Biden administration unveiled a historic security partnership in the Indo-Pacific region between the U.S., Australia and the U.K., known as AUKUS. As part of the deal’s terms and conditions, the United States and the United Kingdom will help Australia build and deploy nuclear-powered submarines, as well as share and cooperate on other technologies, such as cyber, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. “This is about investing in our greatest source of strength—our alliances—and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow,” said U.S. President Joe Biden in a joint virtual announcement ceremony with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson. 

Though none of the leaders explicitly mentioned China or spelled out what “threats” they were responding to, China was clearly the elephant in the room. The AUKUS initiative begins with an 18-month consultation period to determine details of the submarine program and tackle other regulatory, technical and security hurdles. By 2040, Australia’s fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines could patrol the South China Sea, where China has staked its claim to a vast area within the controversial “nine-dash line,” a unilateral and unrecognized demarcation of what Beijing portrays as its historical claims to the waters. 

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