Aukus: the new security pact between UK, US and Australia explained

The deal to counter China will allow Australia to build nuclear submarines for the first time

Joe Biden announces Aukus pact
Joe Biden announces the Aukus pact
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The UK, US and Australia have announced a historic security pact in a bid to counter the threat of China, but it threatens to open a rift with France.

The new partnership, dubbed Aukus, is designed to help London, Canberra and Washington “counter emerging threats in the Indo-Pacific region”, reported Sky News.

As part of the agreement, Australia will build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US.

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While Australia's submarines are the “big-ticket item”, the pact will “also involve sharing of cyber capabilities, AI, quantum and other undersea technologies”, said the BBC.

China’s embassy in Washington reacted to the news by accusing the countries of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.

Why is it needed?

In recent years, Western democracies have been increasingly concerned about China’s military assertiveness.

The authoritarian nation has been raising tensions in disputed territories like the South China Sea, and well as heavily investing in its military capacity.

And Western democracies are facing a race with China to “dominate technologies of the future”, said Sky News’ security and defence editor, Deborah Haynes.

Nations that can exploit emerging technologies will have not only a commercial edge “but also geopolitically and – at the sharpest end – at times of war”, she reported.

China’s technological lead became acutely apparent when Huawei became the global leader in providing 5G communications technology.

Why is France upset?

The Aukus pact means that Australia’s AU$90bn (£48bn) submarine deal with France is now “scrapped”, reported The Guardian.

Australia had planned to acquire 12 new Attack-class submarines from France’s Naval Group, but the deal has been “plagued by delays, cost blowouts, and disputes over local industry involvement”, said the paper.

France has complained that the plans to scrap the deal “shows a lack of coherence”.

French foreign and defence ministers said in a joint statement after the announcement: “The American choice to push aside a European ally and partner like France from a structural partnership with Australia at a time we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region… shows a lack of coherence that France can only acknowledge and regret.”

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