WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) – The United States, Britain and Australia said on Wednesday they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will involve helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, as Chinese influence over the region grows.
Under the partnership, announced by President Joe Biden, British Prime Minster Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the United States will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, senior U.S. administration officials told reporters.
The three leaders outlined the deal in a three-way virtual announcement from each of their capitals.
"We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific for the long term," said Biden.
Morrison said the submarines would be built in Adelaide in close cooperation with the United States and United Kingdom. Australia will not be fielding nuclear weapons, he said.
"We will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations," he said.
Johnson called it a momentous decision for Australia to acquire the technology. He said it would make the world safer. "This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world," he said.
The U.S. officials tressed that the move, which comes as Washington and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China's growing power and influence, would not involve provision of nuclear weapons to Australia. They said the submarines would not be deployed with atomic weaponry, but would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.
The officials said the partnership, which will also involve cooperation in areas including artificial intelligence, quantum technology and cyber, was "not aimed at any one country."
"This is a historic announcement. It reflects the Biden administration's determination to build stronger partnerships to sustain peace and stability across the entire Indo-Pacific region," one of the officials said.
The partnership looks likely to end Australia's attempts to have French shipbuilder Naval Group build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, Australian media reported. read more
Reporting by Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Mike Stone and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; additional reporting by John Irish in Paris
Editing by Alistair Bell