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China says AUKUS security pact risks nuclear proliferation in Pacific

The Chinese foreign minister’s visit comes just days before Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is due to arrive in Papua New Guinea, once again highlighting a tussle for influence between China and US allies…reports Asian Lite News

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi targeted Western powers in the AUKUS trilateral security partnership and accused them of provoking division and raising nuclear proliferation risks in the South Pacific, Nikkei Asia reported on Sunday.

AUKUS is a trilateral security partnership designed to create a stronger, more resilient trilateral submarine industrial base, supporting submarine production and maintenance in all three countries.

This comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lauded diplomatic achievements with Papua New Guinea on his visit to the country on Saturday, part of Beijing’s initiative to strengthen ties with the Pacific Island nations.

The Chinese foreign minister’s visit comes just days before Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is due to arrive in Papua New Guinea, once again highlighting a tussle for influence between China and US allies.

Nikkei Asia reported, referencing announcements made by AUKUS nations that they are considering cooperating with Japan on sharing advanced technology earlier this month, Wang said, “Recent attempts to draw more countries to join in such an initiative of stoking bloc confrontation is completely inconsistent with the urgent needs of island countries.”

He slammed US and Australia’s relationship with Pacific island nations, saying, “The South Pacific region should not become an arena for great power competition. No country should regard island countries as its ‘backyard’ and should not engage in zero-sum games or exclusionary arrangements,” alluding to historical views that Australia considered the South Pacific to be its backyard.

Beijing and Port Moresby will also start free trade agreement negotiations as soon as possible and build police cooperation, according to a press release published by the Foreign Ministry after Wang’s meeting with Tkatchenko, Nikkei Asia reported.

In recent years, Beijing’s attempts to push for police and security agreements with Papua New Guinea had been unsuccessful, Nikkei Asia reported.

During a tour of Pacific island countries in June 2022, Wang proposed a wide-ranging regional security deal that would increase China’s involvement in police training, cybersecurity and sensitive marine mapping while gaining greater access to natural resources. The deal ultimately collapsed, with Papua New Guinea among those that rejected the proposal.

“There has been resentment over the Pacific agreement on security matters,” Papua New Guinea’s foreign affairs secretary Elias Wohengu told the Post Courier newspaper at the time. Wohengu indicated that Papua New Guinea was unlikely to sign a security deal, saying, “On the security status of Papua New Guinea, we will deal with it ourselves.”

Washington and Canberra has criticised China, which has made in the Solomon Islands.

“The increased policing presence in the Solomon Islands is concerning,” John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told reporters in Sydney earlier this month. “That’s the foot in the door.”

But while the big players jostle for influence, Papua New Guinea has stayed “pragmatic in its approach to global powers,” said Australian National University PhD candidate Michael Kabuni.

This has meant positioning Australia and the US as security partners while maintaining ties with China as an important economic partner, it reported.

Thousands protest against over-tourism in Canary Islands

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the Canary Islands in Spain to call for changes to the mass tourism model that they claim is overtaking the Atlantic archipelago, according to Al Jazeera.

The protests started at noon on Saturday (11:00 GMT), and an estimated 57,000 people participated, according to reports in Spanish media that cited the central government’s emissary in the islands.

The demonstrators waved flags, as they crowded the streets of the main towns on each of the seven islands in the archipelago, holding signs with messages like “A moratorium on tourism,” according to Al Jazeera.

“Canary Islands are not up for sale,” and “Respect my home,” the slogans read.

Approximately twenty social and environmental organisations called for the protests, claiming that the overcrowding of tourists feeds an unsustainable business model that hurts both the environment and local people.

They have suggested an eco-tax to safeguard the environment, a tourism moratorium, and a crackdown on the sale of houses to non-residents in order to pressure the authorities into limiting the number of tourists.

Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago of 2.2 million people, were visited by nearly 14 million foreign tourists in 2023, up 13 per cent from the previous year, Al Jazeera reported, citing the official data.

The authorities in the islands are concerned about the impact on locals.

Meanwhile, the President of the Canary Islands Fernando Clavijo stated on Friday that he was “proud” of the area’s status as a top travel destination in Spain, but he also noted that additional restrictions were required as the industry’s growth is on a boom. (ANI)

ALSO READ-China, Japan spar over former’s actions in Indo-Pacific

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AUKUS partnership intensifies global power play

The Australian, British and American national leaders said the AUKUS deal demonstrated a shared commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, one where the PLA Navy (PLAN) is increasingly throwing its weight around as it modernizes at a staggering rate….reports Asian Lite News

China reacted furiously to a March 13 announcement by the three AUKUS partners of Australia, the UK and US about Canberra’s pursuit of nuclear-powered attack submarines. Yet its arguments are largely hypocritical and lame.

Beijing is lambasting AUKUS for proliferating nuclear technology – in this case nuclear propulsion, which has nothing whatsoever to do with weapons – whereas Chairman Xi Jinping kept silent when President Vladimir Putin threatened nuclear escalation in Ukraine after his failed offensive to subdue Kyiv, or benevolently winks at Kim Jong-un’s nuclear antics in North Korea. Australia will initially buy three Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (known by the common naval acronym SSN) from the USA. These are likely to be second-hand boats from the US Navy (USN), plus there is an option for obtaining two more Virginia-class submarines should plans to build a new class of SSN-AUKUS boats be delayed.

The SSN-AUKUS submarine will be largely based on a British SSN design, but with the incorporation of some American technology. Both the UK and Australia will obtain SSN-AUKUS boats, with British production kicking off slightly earlier than in Australia, which is a total novice at such sophisticated shipbuilding. The whole intent is for Canberra to be able to build and maintain a fleet of SSNs as a sovereign capability, but with support from the UK and USA.

Australia will become the seventh country in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines. Of course, it should be pointed out once again that these Australian SSNs are not capable of carrying ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. They are not ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), which only a very exclusive club of nations operate.

Part of the optimal pathway for Australia to gain SSN experience is for the USN to increase its SSN port visits to Australia beginning this year, and the Royal Navy from 2026. Then, in 2027, Submarine Rotational Force – West will be created, comprising one British Astute-class and up to four American Virginia-class SSNs that will operate from HMAS Stirling, a naval base in Western Australia.

Eventually, Australia will also establish a nuclear submarine base on its eastern seaboard. This part of the agreement is hugely important, as it gives the USA in particular a new submarine base in the Indo-Pacific besides the existing ones of Guam and Hawaii. This greatly complicates China’s calculus in trying to detect and track American submarines, for they can arrive from a completely different direction than the Western Pacific.

The Australian, British and American national leaders said the AUKUS deal demonstrated a shared commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, one where the PLA Navy (PLAN) is increasingly throwing its weight around as it modernizes at a staggering rate.

The Office of Naval Intelligence in the USA expects China’s submarine fleet to grow from around 66 boats today to 76 by 2030. The PLAN could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030, plus it is snowballing its total inventory of nuclear warheads. The Pentagon estimates the PLA will have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027, and 1,000 just three years after that.

For some inexplicable reason, China believes it should be allowed as many SSNs, SSBNs and land-based nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles as it wants, but that Australia should not adopt nuclear propulsion. This is sheer hypocrisy, especially given the secrecy and obfuscation that China engages in regarding its nuclear forces. It has not offered any explanation, and has

issued only denials, about several enormous fields of missile silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles that it has been building over the past few years.

Indeed, China’s disingenuous propaganda is attempting to muddy the waters as it roundly criticizes Canberra, London and Washington DC. Chief among the arguments is Beijing’s deliberate blurring between nuclear propulsion and nuclear weapons. They are completely different things, but China will not stop shaking this bone.

China also makes much of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium being transferred to Australia, but this is misleading. The nuclear reactors for the SSN-AUKUS submarines will be transferred to Australia as complete, sealed units. No nuclear materials can be diverted into nuclear weapons, plus all three AUKUS partners have categorically denied any interest in nuclear weapons for this deal.

Another important prong to China’s criticisms of AUKUS is “grave concerns over nuclear proliferation”. Beijing claims blatant violations of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the 1986 Rarotonga Treaty. As an example, China’s mission to the United Nations tweeted that the deal “constitutes serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines the international non-proliferation system, fuels an arms race, and hurts peace and stability”.

Chinese academics misleadingly allege that AUKUS “is essentially equivalent to directly arming a non-nuclear country with nuclear weapons”. This is sheer guile and misdirection. Australia has signed up to both the NPT and Rarotonga Treaty. However, an examination of both treaties quickly silences Chinese complaints.

Crucially, the NPT only applies to nuclear materials associated with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Article 4 has a carve-out covering nuclear materials for “peaceful purposes”, which ironically

enough covers nuclear propulsion since it encompasses anything except nuclear weapons. The NPT also discusses processes whereby the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors nuclear programs and materials even if used for peaceful purposes.

Australia has existing subsidiary arrangements with the IAEA discussing how such safeguard arrangements would work. For example, Article 14 says “non-proscribed military purposes” are permitted. Australia thus fully complies with the NPT, and has fully undertaken to comply with safeguard obligations with the IAEA.

Nuclear fission materials are exempted from IAEA monitoring if they are used for non-explosive military use. China calls this transfer of material from a nuclear weapon state to a non-weapons state as a “loophole” and “setting a bad precedent”, but Australia is completely following the rules to which China itself adheres.

Nonetheless, China continues to bang on about nuclear proliferation, even while Beijing winks at dangerous regimes like Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons. This is where the true double standards and hypocrisy lie. The aforementioned Rarotonga Treaty, also known as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, supports the NPT. Signatories agree to maintain a nuclear weapon-free zone in the South Pacific, but it certainly does not prevent members from using nuclear propulsion. Again, China’s reference to these two treaties is pointless, for

AUKUS does not violate them in any way.

As Lauren Sanders, Senior Research Fellow on Law and the Future of War at the University of Queensland, stated: “On the face of the announcements made so far, the deal complies with international law, despite accusations to the contrary from China and other critics.”

Another argument that China raises is that AUKUS perpetuates a “Cold War mentality”. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “This is a typical Cold War mentality, which will only stimulate an arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation system, and damage regional peace and stability.”

Yet China is the one rapidly multiplying its nuclear forces, while Australia has clearly stated it will not obtain nuclear weapons. Nobody has damaged regional peace and stability as much as China with the PLA deliberately bludgeoning and coercing neighbors with military strength, and actively threatening war on Taiwan.

An opinion piece published on a website affiliated with the PLA said “AUKUS” countries should drop their double standard and respond to the international community’s concerns. They should fulfil their non-proliferation obligations and maintain candid and transparent communication with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect under the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

Such finger pointing should be reflected straight back at China. Beijing should respond to regional and international concerns, should transparently communicate why it is expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal, and treat others with mutual respect. Blame should also be assigned to China for proliferating nuclear weapons. A 1983 National Intelligence Estimate in the USA said China, during the 1980s and 1990s, transferred nuclear and missile technology to other countries’ weapons programs.

“China provided assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran. Beijing exported missiles to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Even as recently as 2019, a US State Department report commented, “Chinese entities” continued in 2018 “to supply Missile Technology Control Regime-controlled items to missile programs of proliferation concern, including those in Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan.”

As part of its smear campaign, China is also dragging out the old tropes that Australia thinks it is the USA’s “deputy sheriff” in the Asia-Pacific region. Another opinion piece concluded “Australia’s inexplicable sense of insecurity when facing China is basically the result of being spiritually controlled for many years by the US.” When all else fails, China simply throws mud at opponents in the hope that some might stick.

Wang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said “they completely disregard the international community’s concerns and are walking further on the dangerous and wrong path for the sake of their selfish geopolitical interests”. This is perhaps the closest Beijing comes to raising a relevant point.

Australia is pursuing a policy of being able to militarily strike at opponents well beyond its own

shores. However, Canberra has said little about how this might impinge upon neighbors, plus the secrecy surrounding AUKUS has put regional countries like Indonesia on the back foot.

Apart from vitriol, how else will China react? One serious concern is that Beijing will use this AUKUS plan as a pretext to accelerate expansion of its own SSN and SSBN fleets.

Let it be noted that this would be a pretext. China has already been progressively improving its submarine platforms, even though qualitatively it still trails the USA. China has also expanded its nuclear submarine-building facilities at Huludao in Liaoning Province, so the time is already ripe for it to expand production. AUKUS would therefore make a convenient scapegoat for what China has already predetermined will happen.

If Xi does take China on such a trajectory, this will gravely alarm the USA. Indeed, China’s actions may spark a greater arms race, as the USA sees the need to keep pace with the PLAN. Wang said, without a trace of irony: “China is always committed to maintaining the international order which has the United Nations at its core and is based on international laws, upholding genuine multilateralism, promoting a multipolar world and the democratization of international relations, and pushing global governance in a more just and reasonable direction.”

Such sentiments are laughable, as are Xi’s similar comments prior to a visit to see his friend Vladimir Putin in Moscow. China and Russia have no interest in international law, democratization and just global governance. These authoritarian regimes are all about sustaining their power and bending others to their wills. There must be considered a possibility, then, that AUKUS might push China closer into a bilateral partnership with Russia. It is not impossible that the two partners might create their own “anti-AUKUS” axis involving undersea technology and platforms.

Russia still possesses better submarine technology than China, so it might be prepared to horse trade it for other forms of Chinese military or industrial aid that it needs to sustain war in Ukraine. Might Iran even be invited into the fold to create a true trilateral axis? Iran has been willingly supplying loitering munitions and drones to Russia for use against Ukraine. Such a Sino-Russian deal would complicate the situation for the USA and the West.

Chaos stemming from submarine technological knowhow sharing could spread from Russia to the Indo-Pacific to the Middle East. The proliferation of far more effective Chinese nuclear-powered submarines would vastly complicate matters for the USN. But what does China have to lose? Its relations with the USA are already at a low ebb, and it is furious about AUKUS. On the other hand, Xi continues to profess undying love for Putin and Russia, and it would be no surprise if AUKUS is a topic of discussion between the two dictators. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Putin, Xi discuss China’s plan to settle ongoing Ukraine crisis

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Submarine deal likely as AUKUS leaders set to meet

President Joe Biden will meet Albanese and Rishi Sunak to discuss AUKUS in San Diego, California…reports Asian Lite News

The leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia will meet in the United States next week to discuss security and foreign policy, all three countries said Wednesday ahead of an expected nuclear submarine deal aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the Pacific.

After 18 months of negotiations, it is anticipated that Australia will reveal plans to obtain eight nuclear-powered submarines, in what Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called “the single biggest leap” in defense capability in his country’s history.

The deal is part of the fledgling regional security pact among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States known as AUKUS.

President Joe Biden will meet Monday in San Diego, California with Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss AUKUS, and will also hold separate bilateral talks with them, the White House said. The meeting was also announced by Australia and Britain.

On Monday the British government will also publish an update to its so-called “Integrated Review” of security, defense and foreign policy, a spokesman for Sunak said in London.

The last update two years ago was billed as the most comprehensive since the Cold War era and crafted as London recalibrated its post-Brexit foreign policy.

London has insisted the new three-way defense alliance is not intended to be adversarial towards any other nation. But it has been widely seen as a Western response to concern about China’s increasing influence in the region, and the pace and size of Beijing’s military expansion.

Since September 2021, behind-the-scenes talks have been taking place between the AUKUS partners about how to equip Australia’s military with sensitive nuclear-propulsion technology.

Australia does not have the expertise to build its own nuclear subs — which have an extended range and powerful strike capabilities — and must buy them from either the United States or Britain.

The emerging deal has worried some of Australia’s largest regional allies, with both Indonesia and Malaysia questioning whether it could spark a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific.

While the subs will be powered by a nuclear reactor, Australia has ruled out equipping them with nuclear weapons.

The submarine contract is expected to be worth tens of billions of US dollars, but experts say its significance goes beyond jobs created and investments pledged.

Nuclear-powered submarines are difficult to detect, can travel long distances for prolonged periods and can be armed with sophisticated cruise missiles.

That would allow Australia to launch strikes or counterstrikes deep into enemy territory with little warning.

Beijing has voiced deep opposition to the project, which it sees as “dangerous” and designed to corner China.

Major questions still linger, including whether Australia will look to buy US or British submarines, where they will be built, and when they will be in the water.

Britain’s The Times newspaper reported Tuesday that Australia is expected to acquire submarines built by Britain, rather than the United States, under the AUKUS pact because it is easier to crew the smaller UK vessels.

If the submarines are from the United States, it would be the first time US-derived nuclear submarine technologies were exported since the 1960s, when the United States helped Britain design its undersea fleet.

“The AUKUS partnership seeks to provide a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability to Australia at the earliest possible date,” a Pentagon spokesperson told AFP ahead of Albanese’s announcement.

“Bolstering our deterrence means boosting all of our industrial bases, growing our collective capabilities, and sharing technology as never before.”

The AUKUS pact also foresees collaboration between the three allies on hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence and cyber warfare.

The subs deal has been contentious in the United States, which is struggling to grow its own fleet of nuclear submarines.

The chair of the influential US Senate armed services committee, Democrat Jack Reed, warned Biden in December that selling subs to Australia could undermine American naval prowess.

In a leaked letter sent to Biden, Reed also wrote that the AUKUS agreement risked “stressing the US submarine industrial base to the breaking point”.

Australia had originally planned to buy diesel-powered submarines in a lucrative deal inked with France, but abruptly scrapped that agreement in favor of AUKUS.

Meanwhile, China has claimed that AUKUS trilateral security alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States was fuelling military confrontation and creating additional nuclear proliferation risks, according to the statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Responding to a media query regarding the UK house hints at the expansion of AUKUS, Mao said, “We always believe that any regional mechanism should be consistent with the trend of peace and development, beneficial to trust and cooperation between regional countries, and not targeted at or harmful to the interests of any third party. Despite being called a ‘trilateral security partnership’, AUKUS is essentially about fueling military confrontation through military collaboration.”

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India foils China’s bid to bring resolution against AUKUS

India’s considered role helped many smaller countries take a clear stand on the Chinese proposal. Realizing that its resolution would not get majority support, China withdrew its draft resolution on September 30, reports Naveen Kapoor

India’s deft diplomacy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) forced China to withdraw its resolution against the AUKUS.

According to sources, the “General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was held in Vienna from September 26-30, 2022. China tried to get a resolution passed against the AUKUS for seeking to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines (but armed with conventional weapons).

China argued that this initiative was in violation of its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It also criticized the role of the IAEA in this regard.

India took an objective view of the initiative, recognising the soundness of the technical evaluation by the IAEA. The Indian Mission to the IAEA in Vienna worked closely with many IAEA member states in this regard.

India’s considered role helped many smaller countries take a clear stand on the Chinese proposal. Realizing that its resolution would not get majority support, China withdrew its draft resolution on September 30.

Interestingly, the Chinese were confident enough of the success on September 28 to get Global Times to issue an article on the subject.

India’s deft and impactful diplomacy was deeply appreciated by IAEA member states, particularly the AUKUS partners. (ANI)

ALSO READ: France, Australia move beyond AUKUS

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France, Australia move beyond AUKUS

For his part, Albanese noted that his visit “represents a new start for our countries’ relationship.”…reports Asian Lite News

French President Emmanuel Macron received Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to discuss the future ties between the two countries, in an effort to rebuild relations, strained by Canberra’s decision to ditch a submarine contract with Paris.

The bilateral relationship deteriorated when Australia last year cancelled a billion-dollar deal for submarines with French-owned shipbuilder Naval Group for a trilateral security pact with the US and the UK, leading to one of the most heated diplomatic crises between the two countries.

The French presidential palace, the Elysee, said Macron and Albanese reaffirmed their commitment to build a “closer and stronger bilateral relationship based on mutual trust and respect.”

“The new Australia position, proactive, ambitious, offers us an opportunity to move forward together on new projects within the framework of initiatives launched these recent years,” Macron said.

For his part, Albanese noted that his visit “represents a new start for our countries’ relationship.”

“Australia’s relationship with France matters. Trust, respect and honesty matter. This is how I will approach my relations,” he said. In response, Macron said to the press that “we will speak about the future, not the past.”

In a joint statement, the two countries said that they have agreed to establish a new agenda for cooperation.

“To take the bilateral relationship forward, we agree to establish a new agenda for cooperation based on three pillars: defence and security; resilience and climate action; and education and culture,” the statement said.

“Australia and France will shape a new defence relationship and strengthen our collaboration and exchange on shared security interests, including through operational engagement and intelligence sharing,” it added.

The two countries said they are determined to be active in regional fora and to enhance security cooperation with Pacific countries, in particular on maritime surveillance with regional agencies, and in the Indian Ocean, including in partnership with India.

“We will support each other’s deployments and conduct more joint maritime activities in support of the rules-based global order. We will also explore initiatives to deepen and facilitate better reciprocal access to our defence facilities. This will build on our long-established mutual logistical support arrangements,” the statement added.

It said that the two countries will explore initiatives to increase defence industry cooperation to support and deliver capabilities to their respective defence forces.

“We will explore cooperation on strategic space issues, such as space domain awareness, to promote a safe, stable and secure space domain, and ensure freedom of access to, and action in, space,” the joint statement read.

It also vowed to deepen cooperation on a range of civilian and defence issues of common interest, including through the FRANZ (France-Australia-New Zealand) arrangement to deliver coordinated humanitarian assistance to support the Pacific to respond to disasters.

“Enhanced dialogue will foster new prospects for economic and scientific cooperation in sectors such as maritime transport, space, artificial intelligence and quantum,” the statement said. (ANI)

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AUKUS to develop hypersonic missiles

The move comes amid growing concern by the US and allies about China’s growing military assertiveness in the Pacific, reports Asian Lite News

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia plan to work together via the recently created security alliance known as AUKUS to develop hypersonic missiles, according to a Biden administration official. An announcement could come as soon as Tuesday.

The move comes amid growing concern by the US and allies about China’s growing military assertiveness in the Pacific. The US official was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.

The US, Russia and China have all looked to develop hypersonic missiles a system so fast that it cannot be intercepted by any current missile defense system.

In October, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that China had conducted a test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its aggressive effort to advance in space and military technologies.

Milley described the Chinese test as a “very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system, and it is very concerning, in a Bloomberg Television interview.

The Pentagon’s 2023 budget request already includes $4.7 billion for research and development of hypersonic weapons. It includes planning that would have a hypersonic missile battery fielded by next year, a sea-based missile by 2025 and an air-based cruise missile by 2027.

President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September announced the creation of AUKUS, a new Indo-Pacific security alliance that will allow for greater sharing of defense capabilities, including helping equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

The latest AUKUS plan was first reported by the Financial Times.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to AUKUS and to a free and open Indo-Pacific. In light of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, we reiterated our unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion. We are pleased with the progress in our trilateral programme for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine capability. We are fully committed to establishing a robust approach to sharing naval propulsion technology with Australia that strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.” The three leaders said in a statement.

One British official said the UK, which has no hypersonic weapon systems, will pool its scientific resources with the US and Australia, which have a joint programme to develop hypersonic cruise missile technology. 

London will then decide whether to develop its own hypersonic programme or to focus on counter hypersonic systems.

“Hypersonic missiles are hard to target, travel very fast and can overcome area denial capabilities,” said another UK official, referring to anti-missile defence systems. “We need to think best how to exploit this technology and defend ourselves.”

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French envoy returns to Washington after AUKUS spat

On September 22, following a phone conversation with US President Joe Biden on the matter, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to send Etienne back to Washington….reports Asian Lite News

French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne has returned to Washington after almost two weeks of absence amid the dispute between two countries over the US submarine contract with Australia, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the airport.

Etienne declined to answer journalists’ questions upon his arrival at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Wednesday.

The ambassador was called back to Paris on September 17, two days after Australia abandoned a $66 billion agreement on submarines with France in favour of a partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom under the trilateral security alliance AUKUS. France considered the move a “stab in the back,” and also recalled its ambassador from Australia.

On September 22, following a phone conversation with US President Joe Biden on the matter, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to send Etienne back to Washington.

Last week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian discussed the issue with his US counterpart, Antony Blinken, noting that the restoration of confidence between the two states “would take time and action.”

In mid-September, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia declared the formation of AUKUS as a platform for defence and security cooperation. The announcement came as Canberra unilaterally withdrew from the $66 billion agreement on submarines with Paris in favour of the supply of vehicles within the framework of the alliance.

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AUKUS doesn’t have any impact on QUAD: India

On September 24, PM Modi will hold bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden. He will also hold bilateral discussions with his counterparts from Australia and Japan…reports Asian Lite News.

India on Tuesday said that the trilateral military treaty among Australia-UK-US or AUKUS was not very relevant from its perspective and also does not have an impact on the functioning of the QUAD.

Addressing a media briefing here, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that QUAD and AUKUS were not groupings of a similar nature.

“The QUAD is plurilateral grouping – a group of countries having a shared vision of their attributes and values QUAD is designed to cater to requirements of the Indo-Pacific region”, he said.

QUAD is a grouping of US, Australia, Japan and India.

He said that AUKUS was a military alliance of the three nations and India was not a party to this alliance. From our perspective, it was neither relevant nor will it have any impact on its functioning, he added.

Informing about the QUAD’s initiatives, Shringla said, “It has adopted a positive pro-active agenda that has wide array of initiatives at the global level to address some of the issues of the day, this includes dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, including supply of vaccines to Indo-Pacific region. It includes working on new emerging technologies, it includes working on issues like climate change, infrastructure, maritime security, education and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).”

As per the newly signed trilateral alliance, the AUKUS grouping would assist Australia in procuring nuclear-powered submarines and deal with China’s military assertiveness in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.

QUAD is a grouping of nations of the Indo-Pacific region, which China observes as a block to contain its influence in the region. This grouping vouches for a free, open, transparent and inclusive Indo-Pacific region based on international law and order.

Informing about the itinerary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, the Foreign Secretary said PM Modi will be leaving on September 22 and after his arrival in the US, he will first attend the Covid-19 Summit.

On September 24, PM Modi will hold bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden. He will also hold bilateral discussions with his counterparts from Australia and Japan.

On the same day, the heads of QUAD member nations will meet to discuss the Indo-Pacific region among other issues.

On September 25, the Prime Minister will address the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and will likely take up the issues of cross border terrorism, the current situation in Afghanistan, climate change, emerging technologies.

ALSO READ-China Worried As Quad Reinforces its Regional Relevance

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France says AUKUS deal a crisis of trust between allies

Under the new security partnership unveiled on September 15, Canberra will build nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology…reports Asian Lite News.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the nuclear submarine deal between the US, the UK and Australia, known as AUKUS, represents a “crisis of trust” between allies that requires explanations.

“It’s not so much about breaking a contract… It is of course having a negative impact on France. But of course, first and foremost, this is a matter of breaking the trust between allies. And it brings about some heavy reflections on behalf of we, the Europeans, as to the way we see our alliances and partnerships,” Le Drian told reporters in New York on Monday.

“What matters now is, first of all, the breach of trust between partners. Because trust, partners and alliance mean transparency, predictability. It requires explanations. It’s about talking to one another, not hiding from one another, in particular on matters of importance. And all of that did not happen.

“We need to talk about it: why was all that missing, why was all that hidden, and made public without telling us ahead of time?” he queried.

Le Drian, who is in New York for the high-level week of the UN General Assembly, said he did not intend to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Of course I may see him here or there in the corridor,” said Le Drian.

Under the new security partnership unveiled on September 15, Canberra will build nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology.

The new trilateral partnership has angered France after Australia pulled out of a 56-billion-euro ($65.6 billion) contract.

Back in 2016, Australia signed a contract with France for the purchase of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

On September 16, Australia announced that it planned to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines from the US and the UK.

Outraged by the abrupt move without notice, France recalled its Ambassadors to the US and Australia.

Le Drian had initially called the deal “a stab in the back”.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Australia the most reliable ally of the United States and said that the partnership will advance on the vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The United States has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia. Our nations have stood together for a long, long time. And you can — we can rely on one another, and that’s really a reassuring thing, said Biden before a bilateral meeting, read a White House release.

Earlier, Biden met Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City.

“We are grateful that our partnership has accomplished what we’ve accomplished together over 70 years,” added the statement.

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French envoys to US, Australia recalled over submarine row

According to French media, it is the first time in the history of France that such a decision was taken vis-a-vis these two countries, reports Asian Lite News

 France has decided to recall its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultations after Canberra scrapped a deal to acquire French-designed submarines and decided instead to invest in the US nuclear-powered submarines.

“At the request of the President of the Republic, I decided to immediately recall to Paris for consultations our two ambassadors in the United States and Australia. This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on Sept. 15 by Australia and the United States,” said French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian in a statement on Friday.

According to French media, it is the first time in the history of France that such a decision was taken vis-a-vis these two countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune said France cannot trust Australia in its ongoing trade talks with the European Union (EU) after the new security partnership called “AUKUS” (Australia-UK-US) was unveiled by the three countries on Wednesday.

A first initiative under the trilateral partnership will be the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet to Australia by the U.S. and the UK, while back in 2016 Australia signed a contract with France for the purchase of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

Le Drian on Thursday called the trilateral move a “stab in the back.” “We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed,” he said.

“The American behavior worries me; this unilateral and brutal decision is very similar to what Mr. (Donald) Trump was doing,” he added.

French

Amid international worries about the proliferation of nuclear material and technology via the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said in a press release that it will “engage with them (Australia, the US, and the UK) on this matter in line with its statutory mandate, and in accordance with their respective safeguards agreements with the Agency.”

China has also voiced opposition against the trilateral move, describing it as a “sheer act of nuclear proliferation.”

Wang Qun, Chinese envoy to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna, has said that “by openly providing assistance to Australia,” a non-nuclear weapon state, in its acquisition and building of the nuclear-powered submarine, it will “apparently give rise to proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies.”

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