UK, US and Australia form military alliance amid China threat

The UK has announced a new defence partnership with the US and Australia as Western allies look to keep a check on China's growing power in the Indo-Pacific.

On Wednesday evening, in a joint statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the creation of a "new trilateral defence partnership".

Mr Johnson said the alliance, known by its acronym Aukus, would work "hand-in-glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific".

China was not mentioned in the cross-continental briefing but there was frequent reference to the changing situation in the region.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has insisted the new security pact between the UK, US and Australia is not about "sending a message to China".

He told Times Radio: "This is not about sending a message to China.

"This is about Australia seeking a new capability because it made a judgment it's current acquisition programme for a diesel-electric submarine was not going to give it the strategic reach or, indeed, the undetectability that it would require in delivering a deterrent."

Speaking from Australia, Prime Minister Mr Morrison said the world was "becoming more complex, particularly in our region, the Indo-Pacific", and said the future of the geopolitical area "will impact all our futures".

Mr Biden, who thanked "Boris" and "that fella Down Under" for their contributions, said the "future of each of our nations and, indeed, the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead".

Watch: The recent arrival of the UK's Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea caught the attention of Beijing.

Downing Street hailed the agreement as a "landmark defence and security partnership" and said it would "protect and defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific".

Officials said working closer together would allow for an increase in technology sharing and "foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains".

The first initiative under Aukus will be for the three allies to work together to secure nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy – a move that will increase Western security capabilities in the Pacific.

The initial scoping phase for the submarines is expected to take 18 months, with the UK Government predicting the programme will "create hundreds of highly skilled scientific and engineering roles" across the country, as well as driving investment in high-tech sectors.

Mr Wallace said Britain has not gone "fishing" for the opportunity to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, after suggestions France has been angered by the move.

He told Sky News: "We didn't go fishing for these opportunities, fundamentally the Australians made a decision they wanted a different capability.

"We have no intention of doing anything to antagonise the French – the French are some of our closest military allies in Europe, we’re sizable and comparable forces and we do things together."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announcing official launch of the National Shipbuilding Office13092021 CREDIT MOD Crown Copyright.jpg
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the partnership was not about "sending a message to China" (Picture: MOD).

In a live broadcast from Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the partnership would make the world safer.

Mr Johnson said: "We are opening a new chapter in our friendship.

"Perhaps most significantly, the UK, Australia and the US will be joined even more closely together, reflecting the measure of trust between us, the depth of our friendship, and the enduring strength of our shared values of freedom and democracy.

"Now the UK will embark on this project alongside our allies, making the world safer and generating jobs across the United Kingdom."

Mr Johnson also said Scotland and parts of the north of England and the Midlands would feel the benefit of the work on the nuclear-powered submarines, with the Government keen to exploit the Royal Navy's decades-worth of knowledge of using such machines.

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