China warned on Tuesday that the US and its nuclear allies Australia and Britain were walking down a “path of error and danger” after they unveiled a deal that would see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. The purchase of the submarine aims to modernize Australia’s fleet amid growth concerns about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

President Biden flew to San Diego on Monday for talks with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the countries’ 18-month nuclear partnership, known as AUKUS. The three leaders formally announced the plan as they spoke from the Point Loma Naval Base at the entrance to San Diego Bay, surrounded by US sailors with the destroyer USS Sterett in the background.

President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deliver remarks following the AUKUS Summit at Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego, California on March 13, 2023.
President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deliver remarks following the AUKUS Summit at Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego, California on March 13, 2023.


“Today, as we stand at a turning point in history, where the hard work to advance deterrence and promote stability will affect the prospects for peace for decades to come, the United States could not ask for a better partner in India. “The Pacific is where so much of our shared future will be written,” Mr. Biden said.

A partnership between three countries, announced in 2021gave Australia access to nuclear submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered vessels, as a counter to China’s military buildup.

“The latest joint statement by the United States, Great Britain and Australia shows that the three countries, for their own geopolitical interests, are completely ignoring the concerns of the international community and are going further and further down the path of error and danger,” Wang Wenbin, an official representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi calls for “reunification” with Taiwan


China has argued that the AUKUS deal violates the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It argues that the transfer of nuclear weapons materials from a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear-weapon state is a “blatant” violation of the spirit of the pact. Australian officials have brushed off the criticism, saying they are working to acquire nuclear-powered, not nuclear-powered, submarines.

Mr Biden stressed that the submarines would have “no nuclear weapons of any kind” and said the three leaders were “deeply committed to strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime”.

“The question is how China will respond, because Australia is not backing down from what it … sees in its interests here,” said Charles Edel, senior adviser and chair of the Australian Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I think probably from Beijing’s point of view they have already written off Australia as a difficult middle country. She seemed to have completely crossed over to the US camp.”

The nuclear submarine of the US Navy is part of the Navy
A U.S. Navy nuclear submarine enters a naval dockyard in Port Canaveral, Florida, on March 8, 2023.

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Australia is buying up to five Virginia-class boats under AUKUS. The next generation of submarines will be built in the UK and Australia using US technology and support. The US will also increase port visits to Australia to give the country a better understanding of nuclear technology before it has its own submarines.

In a statement before the meeting, the leaders said their countries have worked for decades to maintain peace, stability and prosperity around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We believe in a world that protects freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and a rules-based international order,” said the statement published before their joint speech.

“The steps we are announcing today will help us achieve these mutually beneficial goals for decades to come,” they said.

San Diego is Mr. Biden’s first stop on a three-day trip to California and Nevada. He will discuss gun violence prevention in the community of Monterey Park, California and his plans to reduce prescription drug costs in Las Vegas. The trip will include fundraising stops as he ramps up his political activities ahead of an expected announcement next month that he will seek re-election in 2024.

Mr. Biden was also scheduled to meet individually with Albanese and Sunak for a chance to coordinate strategy on Russia’s war in Ukraine, the global economy and more.

The secret AUKUS deal involved the Australian government canceling a $66 billion contract for France’s fleet of conventional submarines, sparking diplomatic battle in the western alliance that took months to fix.

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