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Biden agrees to help Australia build nuclear submarines

President Biden has agreed to help Australia build nuclear submarines and launch a new three-country military initiative called AUKUS after Biden’s decision not to call in Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised concerns about the status of the long-standing alliance.

Biden announced the actions at a virtual event Wednesday with Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“AUKUS will bring together our sailors, scientists and industries to maintain and expand our advantage in military capabilities and critical technologies such as cyber and artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and underwater domains,” Biden said.

Biden did not mention the strategic threat from China, but said that “the future of each of our nations – and indeed of the world – depends on a sustainable and flourishing free and open Indo-Pacific in the decades to to come”.

President Joe Biden smiles as he delivers remarks on a virtual national security initiative with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on September 15, 2021.
REUTERS / Tom Brenner

Australian media focused for months on the rebuffs perceived by Biden, who did not consult Morrison before his April decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan or call him amid the chaotic evacuation of Americans and allies of the United States in August – despite Australia’s support for the United States throughout the 20 Years War.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported this month that the cold shoulder fueled “concerns over the alliance between the two nations, as well as relations between Mr. Biden and Mr. Morrison, were strained.”

An Australian journalist asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki for the status of the relationship during a press briefing on September 2.

The reporter said: “A Taliban spokesperson told an Australian news network that the 41 Australians who died in the war in Afghanistan have died in vain. Meanwhile, the Australian government discovered the change in withdrawal date through media reports. We were not included on Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s list of countries called on the last day, August 31. Are the Taliban right?

President Joe Biden walks to the podium ahead of his remarks on a virtual national security initiative with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“AUKUS will bring together our sailors, scientists and industries to maintain and expand our advantage in military capabilities and critical technologies,” Biden said.
REUTERS / Tom Brenner

Psaki said the United States was “incredibly grateful” for Australia’s support in the war – and Biden called the Australian leader the same day, the White House said hours later.

The United States already has military alliances with the United Kingdom – another NATO member – and with Australia through the ANZUS Treaty of 1951.

But officials in the Biden administration have described the initiative as a rare honor for Australia.

“I do not anticipate that this will be undertaken under other circumstances in the future. We consider this to be a unique case, ”an administration official told reporters in a morning briefing.

The official noted that although the United States opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons, “Australia does not intend to pursue nuclear weapons.”

Australia has been a key country in the United States’ efforts to stem China’s rise in influence, and the country is already a member of the so-called “Quad” group along with the United States, India and Japan. , who was trained to diplomatically oppose China.

But the official said it is not all about China.

“This partnership does not target or concern a single country. It is about advancing our strategic interests, maintaining the rules-based international order and promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, ”the official said.

It is unclear why New Zealand, also an ANZUS treaty ally, is not included in the new initiative, or whether the exclusion reflects a change in the US-New Zealand relationship. The island nation is a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partnership – alongside the US, UK, Canada and Australia – but has opposed nuclear-powered ships and submarines entering its waters.

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