The United States, Britain and Australia announced a special security agreement to share advanced military technologies in an effort to counter Chinese influence.
This partnership will enable Australia, for the first time, to build nuclear-powered submarines. The agreement, called “Ocos”, will cover the areas of artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and the Internet.
The three countries are concerned about China’s growing influence and military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Under the new agreement, Australia canceled a contract signed with France in 2016 to build French-designed submarines. Implementation was delayed due to Australia’s desire to manufacture most of the components locally.
US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison issued a joint statement on the signing of the New Security Partnership Agreement.
The statement included the signatories’ commitment to Australia’s support for the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.
“This capability will enhance stability in the Indo-Pacific region and will be positioned to support our common values and interests,” the statement said.
The leaders of the three countries declared that the goal is to activate Australia’s capacity as soon as possible, while continuing Australia’s commitment as a non-nuclear nation. They added that the defense agreement will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and “additional undersea capabilities.”
Johnson said the three countries were natural allies and the coalition “will bring us closer than ever.”
“This partnership will become increasingly vital to defending our interests and protecting our people back home,” he added.
Recent weeks have seen a British aircraft carrier deployed to the Indo-Pacific region, along with personnel and equipment from the United States.
The joint statement said the Indo-Pacific region is a potential flashpoint, with unresolved territorial disputes, threats of terrorism and the problem of organized crime. The countries declared that they are “on the front line in the face of new security challenges, including in cyberspace.”
Analysis: Jonathan Bell – Defense Editor
The British government says this is a very important defense agreement – a point reinforced by the fact that the leaders of Britain, the United States and Australia have appeared together via video to announce the partnership. This underscores the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region for both the United States and the United Kingdom.
This agreement will have repercussions for two countries. France had signed a deal to build a fleet of diesel-electric submarines for the Australian Navy. This deal has now expired.
The second country is China. Although British officials insist the new defense pact is not a response to any country, the British government says it is aimed at ensuring prosperity, security and stability in the region, and supporting a “peaceful rules-based order”.
It is no secret that Britain, the United States and Australia share concerns about the Chinese military build-up in the region.