On September 15, 2021. US President Joe Biden, speaking alongside Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announced the creation of a new strategic alliance involving the three countries, codenamed AUKUS.

AUKUS is the new defense security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. The three allies will come together to secure nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. Fortifying their defense capabilities in Indo-Pacific and beyond. In the Pacific, this will enhance Western security capabilities. In addition, the strategic location of Australia is pivotal in the Indo-Pacific region, an area of interest for both the United Kingdom and the United States. Moreover, the three nations have shown concerns regarding China’s dominance over the pacific region.

The trilateral defense partnership pact seeks to enhance the bilateral ties between the three states. The collaboration will emphasize the security and defense capabilities precisely in the Australian domain. Alluring the expertise from U.S and U.K submarine programs in a joint exercise with a vision to amplify mutual benefit and interoperability. The three partners have come together intending to initiate a new submarine fleet for Australia which will help boost collaboration in security.

China’s Push on Multiple Fronts

Gen John Hyten, the No 2-ranking U.S military officer, who earlier commanded the U.S nuclear forces and oversaw Air Force space operations states “The pace at which China is moving is stunning.”

The recent China test of a hypersonic missile took the U.S by surprise. The hypersonic missile design is said to bypass U.S missile defense. While Beijing asserted testing of a reusable space vehicle and not a missile, nonetheless, the tests alarmed the U.S defense official, stating it to be ‘very concerning’. For the United States, China’s military modernization is a matter of grave concern that runs further deeper. Emphasizing this Chinese military modernization, Pentagon and defense officials on Capitol Hill validate the restoration of nuclear arsenals by the U.S. The defense pact is just one of many deals and partnerships that are being forged by the U.S as a response to China’s militarization. 

Also Read: THE NEW ECONOMIC WORLD ORDER

This growing China’s dominance through an intensified military muscle in the Pacific region is raising concerns. Beijing is amplifying nuclear arsenals, missile and cyber technologies, advancements in space, conventional domains of land, sea, and air. The balance of power that has favored the United States since the end of the Cold War is shifting. Rising China is molding an international system that would be more favorable to China. However, directly it does not pose any threat to the U.S but the Chinese influence over the U.S allies in Asia is a matter of concern. 

On top of that, this new nuclear-powered submarine pact has triggered a boisterous reaction from China. Beijing slammed the new defense deal stating that it would only destabilize the region. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian says, “It is severely damaging regional peace and stability intensifies the arms race and jeopardizes international efforts promoting the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons which is a highly irresponsible act.” In simple words, this new security arrangement to Beijing it’s a clear military threat, calling it a ‘nuclear-powered submarine fever’. Igniting the aggression in policy making of China.

Nuclearized Era Ahead?

According to China, if UK and U.S helped Australia acquire the naval nuclear submarine capabilities this will be perceived as a green signal by the rest of the countries in legalizing the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. Likewise legalizing the nuclear arsenal international export. In short, this great powers competition would be the beginning of a nuclearized era. These formed alliances in these rising tensions will take over the world. Concerning China and Australia relations, there were no geopolitical confrontations primarily because of the vast geographical distance. But this Australian tilt by forming an alliance with the U.S in this ongoing U.S-China competition has proved that Sydney has chosen its side. Australian nuclear-powered submarine patrolling is targeted at China, states Beijing. China believes this new military pact is a cold war mentality that will play down the nuclear non-proliferation initiative.

Has Australia Chosen Sides?

Declaring it as a ‘Forever Partnership’, Australia has chosen a side advancing and strengthening its defense framework by integrating with the U.S in rivalry with China. Going all the way with the U.S, and being at odds with the country’s largest trading partner, Australia has made itself overly reliant on the U.S that will simply escalate tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.   

The heated world reactions towards AUKUS might be a short-term mess for Australia but a win-win in long term. The UK and U.S support in building a nuclear arsenal will boost Canberra’s military defense. Keeping in mind AUKUS pact has taken Australia to the point of no way back in relations with China, leading to a more competitive coexistent in the region. A future of cold relations between the U.S and China ahead.

But Are Nuclear Powered Submarines Any Better?

Generally known as the ‘Silent Service’ Nuclear power submarines can spend longer underwater, are more survivable, and don’t need to surface to charge batteries. This means that they can move silently for a longer distance without being spotted, in comparison to a diesel electric-powered submarine. Powered by onboard nuclear reactors. They can operate for long periods in the open ocean. The other quality of nuclear submarines is endurance, running indefinitely. It is said that only six nations, the UK, U.S, China, France, India, Russia have nuclear submarines. In addition, Israel and North Korea are claimed to have nuclear missile capable submarines by analysts. The build cost of a nuclear submarine is $320.5 with a construction period of 3 to 4 years. Thanks to U.K and U.S for advanced military technology, Australia will now build its nuclear submarine. Australia will now have far more competent and powerful submarines than it was presumed to have by purchasing from France.

According to Australia, nuclear-powered submarines will not be used as nuclear weapons, and neither will they be armed with any nuclear weapons.  

A Move Towards Global Navy?

Looking at history, a large naval fleet depicted a state’s national influence. Recognized by all sea powers. Since Maritimes affair plays an essential role in world trade system as 80% of the International trade is conducted via naval routes. A strong navy is vital to strengthen your economic hold considering contemporary times.  

Given that, in the context of kit and personnel, Australia and UK Navies are interoperable. Holding crown commissions, the UK and Australian officers have the authority to command each other’s personnel. In many joint exercises, the U.S navy intently cooperates with UK and Australia. Although, Russia remains a greater strategic threat to the United States because its nuclear arsenal far outnumbers that of China. 

Also Read: TAIWAN A FLASHPOINT IN U.S CHINA RIVALRY

Despite US officials’ belief, Beijing stands a long-term worry because its economic strength far exceeds Russia, helping with military modernization resources. AUKUS is perceived as a strategy to counter Chinese influence in the South China Sea. China is expected to have the world’s largest naval fleet. Its aggressive military modernization especially in naval domains and its unilateral expansion in the international waters has raised concerns within great powers. To counter rising China’s influence over the Indo-Pacific region, the U.S needs to get back on its feet by gaining its military power with the support of its allies. AUKUS is a window of opportunity. 

Henceforth, AUKUS trilateral pact is inevitable. A core Indo-Pacific instrument that will play a principal role in not only shaping the region but the global future. For China and other regional states, AUKUS will prove to be a chance to strengthen engagement with the EU through ‘EU Strategy for Corporation in The Indo-Pacific.’ Which is focused on the supply and chain issues in the Indo-Pacific region.

Needless to say, this new defense alliance is all about West teaming up in the context of an existential challenge posed by China. 

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