On Monday, President Joe Biden along with the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom declared that Australia will buy nuclear-powered attack submarines from the United States in order to modernize its fleet. The decision was made in response to increasing worries about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
President Biden traveled to San Diego to join Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they celebrated an 18-month-old nuclear partnership between their countries, referred to as AUKUS. This partnership allows Australia to obtain access to nuclear-powered submarines, which are more advanced and effective than traditionally powered submarines, in order to counteract China’s military expansion.
President Biden was mindful of tensions with China and the country’s criticism of the agreement, and emphasized that the submarines are powered by nuclear energy rather than being armed with nuclear weapons.
During an open-air ceremony at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, President Biden stated that the new submarines that Australia will acquire through the AUKUS partnership will not be equipped with any nuclear weapons. Standing beside the President, Australian Prime Minister Albanese praised the partnership as the largest investment in Australia’s military capability to date, and also expressed gratitude for the U.S.’s decision to share its nuclear propulsion technology for the first time in 65 years.
British Prime Minister Sunak described AUKUS as the most significant multilateral defense partnership in generations, and added that the U.K. will offer its 60 years of submarine fleet expertise to assist Australian engineers in constructing their own fleet.
The leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States released a joint statement before announcing the partnership, stating that their countries have been working for decades to promote peace, stability, and prosperity around the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. They emphasized their belief in a world that upholds human rights, freedom, the rule of law, and the sovereignty of independent states under a rules-based international order. The leaders also expressed their confidence that the new partnership will support these shared objectives in the long term.
President Biden has made a three-day trip to California and Nevada, where he discussed gun violence prevention in Monterey Park and his plans to lower prescription drug costs in Las Vegas. He also attended fundraising events for the Democratic party. During his visit, he met with British and Australian leaders to coordinate strategy on global issues, including Russia’s war in Ukraine and the global economy. The US, UK, and Australia announced a new partnership, AUKUS, which includes Australia buying nuclear-powered submarines and increasing port visits by the US to provide familiarity with the technology.
China has criticized the deal, but Australian officials argue that they are acquiring nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed submarines. President Biden downplayed the rivalry with China, stating that he does not view their actions as a challenge to anybody.