By Daphne Psaledakis and David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Australia and the United States announced expanded military cooperation on Thursday, including rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia, a day after announcing a submarine deal denounced by China as intensifying a regional arms race. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australia-get-us-nuclear-submarine-technology-china-looms-large-2021-09-15
Speaking after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the two sides would be “significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.”
Dutton spoke at a news conference held in Washington, saying that the agreement would see greater cooperation via rotational deployments all U.S.-made military aircraft to Australia.
We’ve established combined logistics sustainment, and the capability for maintenance in support of our enhanced activities. This includes logistics and sustainment capabilities for submarines and other surface combatants.
Lloyd Austin, U.S. Secretary for Defense said that the meeting had approved “major force posture initiatives” which will increase our presence and access to Australia.
The United States and Britain announced Wednesday that they will provide Australia the technology and capabilities to launch nuclear-powered subs.
The United States is looking to counter China’s rising power and influence. They are particularly concerned about its military buildup, its pressure on Taiwan, and the deployments of nuclear-powered submarines in South China Sea.
China denounced Australia’s new partnership, saying that it should not be used to target third nations. Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stated that Australia, Britain, and the United States were “severely detrimental to regional peace and stability,” intensifying an arms race and causing damage to international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.
While the White House rejected criticisms from France and China, it defended America’s decision to supply Australia advanced technology for its nuclear-powered submarines.
Jen Psaki, a White House spokesperson said that the agreement wasn’t aimed at China. However, there are growing concerns over China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. Regional analysts also said that the deal was clearly meant to counter Beijing’s increasing strength.
Psaki said that the agreement was not intended to cause conflict with China.
French anger at the agreement led to the cancellation of the $40 billion contract for French-designed conventional submarines. France called the move a “stab in their back”.
The news conference saw Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary-of-State called France “vital partner” for the Indo-Pacific. He also stated that Washington will continue to work with Paris. These comments appeared to be aimed at calming French anger.
We work closely with France in many areas, not only within the Indo-Pacific region but all over the globe. It’s something we will keep doing. Blinken stated that we place great value on this relationship and that partnership.
Blinken stated that the United States was in contact with French counterparts over the past 24-48 hours in order to talk about the partnership with Australia.
Psaki stated that France had been “aware” in advance of the proposed deal.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Foreign Minister, accused Joe Biden, U.S. president, of being like Trump and called his U.S. action “brutal,” unilateral, and unpredictable.”I am bitter and angry. “This isn’t something that can be done among allies,” he said to franceinfo radio.
The French embassy in Washington confirmed a New York Times report that in protest, it had canceled a gala event on Friday commemorating the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,” and France’s top naval officer, who had traveled to Washington for the event celebrating French in America’s war of independence, would return early to Paris.
Ambassador Philippe Etienne told CNN “we were not informed until we saw the first news yesterday morning in Australia and also in the U.S.”
The nuclear-powered submarines will allow Australia to operate throughout the region and for longer periods than those involved in the French deal, military analysts said.
Dutton stated that the nuclear-powered French option was not superior to the one operated by Britain or the United States.
Dutton stated that the “in the end, we made the right decision for what was in our best interests and the… security of the Indo-Pacific.”
Dutton indicated that there would be “more bilateral exercises” and “greater combined exercise engagement with other partners in the region.”