First a large order of Australian submarines by Canberra, then the launch of a new state-of-the-art submarine combining the United States, United Kingdom and Australia: Joe Biden unveils a spectacular military program in the Pacific on Monday March 13 , strongly criticized by China.
The American president, the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the head of the Australian government, Anthony Albanese, have an appointment at a naval base in San Diego to formalize this project, which had enraged France when it was announced, it eighteen months ago.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan began sketching the outlines on Monday aboard the plane taking the US president to California.
The program will take place in three phases. First, a period of familiarization of Australia – which has no nuclear-powered submarines, nor nuclear technology, whether military or civilian – with these machines, via the “training of sailors, engineers, technicians”, said Jake Sullivan. He added that the goal was to have “deployments” of American and British submarines in Australia during the decade.
Delivery from 2030
In a second step, Australia will buy three American nuclear-powered submarines of the “Virginia” class, with an option on two additional submersible vessels. The submarines must be delivered from 2030.
Finally – this is the third and most ambitious stage of the program – the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom will join forces for a new generation of submarines, called SSN-Aukus, announced the White House national security adviser. These devices, nuclear-powered and conventionally armed, will involve “significant investments” in all three countries, he said.
Nuclear-powered submarines are difficult to detect, can travel great distances for long periods of time, and can carry sophisticated cruise missiles. This program represents for the United States “a commitment over decades, and perhaps even a century”said the adviser.
The objective, he assured, is not “to go to war” but “to deter any conflict”. Asked repeatedly about criticism of China, he assured that Washington had already raised the subject directly with Beijing, and took no one by surprise. “We are very confident about the way we have designed the Aukus alliance”boasted Jake Sullivan, for whom the goal of the United States is to ensure “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Diplomatic crisis with France
This new military partnership, very close and very ambitious, does not, however, only make people happy. The conclusion of the Aukus alliance, with the corollary of the cancellation by Canberra of the contract for the acquisition of twelve French submarines, had given rise in 2021 to a diplomatic crisis with France, which had shouted at the ” treason “.
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The case has since settled down, by dint of intense diplomatic maneuvers, including a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the United States in early December. Joe Biden called his French counterpart on March 7, and the two men, according to the White House, discussed their ” cooperation “ in the Indian Ocean and in Asia.
The indignation of France has mainly given way to criticism from China, engaged with the United States in a fierce economic and strategic rivalry. “We call on the United States, Britain and Australia to abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum games” and to “do more things to encourage regional peace and stability”Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said ahead of Monday’s announcements.