Australia, the UK and US have formed an historic new security partnership named AUKUS to build nuclear submarines for Australia’s fleet.
The new deal which Prime Minister Scott Morrison described as “what is obviously a very difficult and disappointing decision for France” and “not a change of mind, but a change of need” when answering questions about the death of the $90 billion French attack submarine project.
Under the original project, Australia had planned to acquire 12 new Attack-class submarines under a $90bn program with France’s Naval Group and the first of the new French-designed submarines was expected to be operational in 2034, with each subsequent submarine delivered every two years.
“We will not be continuing with the attack class submarine program and have advised Naval Group and the government of France and President Macron of that decision”, he said.
“We now have the support and expertise of the United States and the United Kingdom. ”
He also wants to assure the international community, especially China that Australia is not trying to become a global nuclear power.
“I stress again, this is about propulsion. This is not about acquiring nuclear weapons. Australia has no interest in that. No plans for it, no policy for it, no contemplation of it. It’s not on our agenda”.
Asked if he has got some some explaining to do with President Xi Jinping or is prepared for economic trade sanctions from China in response, Mr Morrison says “That engagement has already commenced with China as it has with many countries in the region including quad partners in Japan and India”.
“I’ll be having further calls today as we talk through those issues and engagement with China”.
“There’s an open invitation for President Xi to discuss other matters. That has always been there. Australia is open to discuss issues important to the Indo-Pacific. ”
“It is not an uncommon thing for countries to take decisions in their own strategic interests and build up their defence capabilities. China makes the same decisions as does other countries within our region. I don’t think that should be seen as necessarily extraordinary or in the terms that you suggested.”