Australia is preparing for the Chinese military threat and closes with the United States and the United Kingdom, the largest defense project of the oceanic country in history.
The rise of China as a power in the Pacific and Oceania during the last decades has set off the alarms of all Western countries that believed that the economic opening of the communist dictatorship during the 70s would imply a later democratization.
After realizing they were completely wrong, in recent years, Western countries have decided to change their foreign policy approach towards the Asian giant.
Seeking to confront China’s advances in the Indo-Pacific, a strategic military alliance named AUKUS emerged in 2021 between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
This trilateral security pact encompasses cooperation on many cutting-edge military technologies and also commits the partners to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Just a year and a half after the AUKUS was announced, a mega-plan was announced on Monday, March 13, that will dramatically increase Australia’s submarine capability and put the AUKUS at the center of the international security discussion in the Indo-Pacific for decades to come.
This plan, which will cost Australia an estimated US$245 billion by 2055 and thus become the most significant defense project in the country’s history, consists of developing Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine capability through the sale of US submarines and the construction of a new class of submarines jointly among AUKUS allies.
The plan, divided into progressive steps, envisages firstly that, from 2027, one UK submarine and up to 4 US submarines will operate from the HMAS Stirling naval base in Perth.
Under the agreement, the US intends to sell Australia three General Dynamics-built Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines by the early 2030s, allowing Australia to buy two more if needed.
On the other hand, this plan closed by the three mandarins would create a new class of trilaterally developed submarines christened SSN-AUKUS.
Britain will build the first SSN-AUKUS submarine by 2038, and Australia will deliver its first build in 2042, from where one will be completed every three years until the fleet reaches eight.
All this with state-of-the-art US technology and construction in the UK and Australia by Bae Systems and Rolls-Royce.
It is essential to clarify that a nuclear-powered submarine consists of a submarine that operates with a small nuclear reactor inside, allowing the vessel to stay underwater for up to 20 years without the need to touch port or refuel.
This does not mean that the submarine will contain nuclear warheads, which are not envisaged for this plan since Australia has no nuclear weapons developed and does not plan to set them in the future.
However, these nuclear submarines can be extremely deadly in the Taiwan Strait and are the main focus of Beijing’s concerns.
In all, the program would create 20,000 highly skilled jobs over the next three decades, in a plan that the Australian opposition itself announced it would support “against all odds.”
“This will be an Australian sovereign capability, built by Australians, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy, and supported by Australian workers in Australian shipyards,” the Australian prime minister told a conference in California.
In San Diego, US President Joe Biden, UK President Rishi Sunak, and Australia’s Labor leader Anthony Albanese met to make the joint announcement.
The Australian prime minister said the program would begin with a US$4 billion investment over the next four years to expand the capacity to receive submarines at its bases, build them in its shipyards, and train skilled workers.
This AUKUS news did not go down well in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “the United States, Britain, and Australia, in pursuit of their geopolitical interests, are following a risky path.”
The media also interpreted the announcement in Australia as a new era of tensions with China.
The country’s leading newspapers published a “Red Alert” report warning how the new AUKUS touts a direct military confrontation with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age estimated that Australia should be poised for open war with China within the next three years, citing as their source five security analysts and experts, namely Alan Finkel, Peter Jennings, Lavina Lee, Mick Ryan, and Lesley Seebeck.
The Nine Entertainment media group published the report.
In the report, the experts note that a conflict involving Taiwan and China is far more likely than most Australian citizens believe and that when such a war starts, Australia is not going to be able to stand on the sidelines, something the Chinese Communist Party is well aware of, so it could strike preemptively.
“Our assessment of the risk of war is based on President Xi Jinping’s aggressive posture and rapid military buildup,” reads the Red Alert report, which suggests a three-year time frame because, according to the analysis, “a tipping point” will be reached around 2027, after which “Beijing will have military superiority over the United States in the Strait.”
With information from Derecha Diario