President Joe Biden touted the United States’ partnerships with the United Kingdom and Australia as the three nations announcing a new military pact, meant in part to counter China’s global influence.
Mr Biden’s remarks came as the three countries announced the AUKUS alliance that will include building a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, as well as projects on cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
The president joked about the term on Wednesday amid a trilateral announcement with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morris.
“It sounds strange with all these acronyms, but it’s a good one” he joked. Nevertheless, he touted the strong alliance between the three countries and said the new initiatives will allow them to handle the challenges of the 21st century.
“This is about investing in our greatest source of strength – our alliances,” he said. “The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have long been faithful and capable partners who are even closer today.”
The president said all three countries recognized the need for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region in the long term.
“Because the future of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said. “This is about investing in our greatest source of strength; our alliances and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow.”
Mr Biden’s statement comes as he has faced repeated criticism from the United Kingdom and European allies for the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. As such, the president also mentioned France as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
“The United States looks forward to working closely with France and other key countries as we go forward,” he said.
Mr Biden said the goal of the project is to ensure that each country has the most up-to-date capability against rapidly evolving threats.
“AUKUS will bring together our sailors, our scientists and our industries to maintain and expand our edge in military capabilities, critical technologies such as cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea domains,” he said.
All three leaders emphasised that the new nuclear submarines will be conventionally armed and not have nuclear weapons, and that the United States and United Kingdom had operated nuclear-powered submarines for decades.
“I want to be exceedingly clear about this, we are not talking about nuclear-armed submarines,” Mr Biden said. “These are conventionally armed submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors. This technology is proven. It’s safe.”
Mr Biden added that he asked Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to lead the effort with the Energy and State Departments and that the governments will launch an 18-month consultation period for aspects of the programs.
“We’re joining together, our partnerships are getting stronger,” he said. “This is what we’re about.”