The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom announced a historic security agreement in the Indo-Pacific region, with the main goal of containing China’s advance.
The military agreement known as Aukus, negotiated in secret, would, for example, allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time using American technology.
In addition, the agreement also covers areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum technology, and cybersecurity.
This is the largest defense partnership in decades for these countries, which in recent years have expressed concerns about the increasing Chinese military presence in the Indo-Pacific region (which includes the Indo-Pacific).
The new partnership seeks to “enhance security and prosperity” in the region, as stated in a joint statement by US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. The participation of the three advertising agents together via videoconferencing highlighted the importance of the agreement for these countries.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Washington accused the countries of “Cold War mentality and ideological bias.” An embassy spokesman said countries “should not build exception blocks”.
This agreement effectively means that Australia has abandoned a R$190 billion agreement signed with France in 2016 to build 12 non-nuclear submarines. The contract with France was postponed due to Australian requirements that many components be sourced locally.
Australia claims that it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons.
In any case, some analysts suggest that this may be the beginning of the world’s first global navy.
What is OCOS?
Defense and security analysts say it is the largest security agreement between the three countries since World War II (1939-45). The name is a play on words with letters from the names of the three countries in English (Au, UK, US).
Although the US, UK and Australia have been allies for decades, Aukus formalizes and deepens their defense cooperation.
The agreement will focus on military capability, separating it from the Five Eyes Intelligence Sharing Alliance, which also includes New Zealand and Canada. According to Boris Johnson, Aukus also does not affect other strategic alliances in the defense zone, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
While Australian submarines will be the most expensive component of the package, the Aukus will also include sharing cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technology and other undersea technologies.
“This is a historic opportunity for the three countries, with like-minded allies and partners, to protect shared values and enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” the joint statement of the leaders of the three countries said.
In the announcement, the leaders did not directly refer to China, but said that challenges to regional security had “significantly increased”.
“It’s a ‘big deal’ because it really shows that the three countries are drawing a line in the sand to initiate and oppose the aggressive moves of the Chinese Communist Party in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Jay Buckenstein, senior director of defense and national security for Australia’s Northern Territory government. “It also publicly demonstrates our common position on this and our commitment to a stable and secure Indo-Pacific region, which over the past 70 years has led to prosperity for all in the region, including the economic growth of China.”
For the BBC’s defense correspondent, Jonathan Bell, there are two important points in the agreement. First, it shows the increasing importance of the Indo-Pacific region to both the United States and the United Kingdom, which have moved away from the region in their geopolitical strategy over the past few decades.
Secondly, it severely affects one of the NATO allies, namely France. The European country has signed an agreement to build a fleet of diesel-electric submarines for the Australian Navy, but that business is now dead. In response, the French government said the declaration was a “stab in the back” for an ally and echoed growing calls for a joint European Union military force and a geopolitical strategy that transcends US influence.
What is the background to the agreement?
China’s military growth has alarmed rival powers in recent years. Beijing has been accused of escalating tensions in disputed areas such as the South China Sea.
This region includes one of the most troubled regions in the world.
Connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea (or South China Sea), for example, has trade routes that transport a third of the world’s shipped goods and more than $3 trillion a year. This value is more than double the Brazilian GDP, which reached US$1.4 trillion in 2020.
China and five other countries (Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei) claim maritime territory in the South China Sea, which is home to vital routes for cargo ships and aircraft.
In addition, China has been building artificial islands in the middle of the sea for years as a way to occupy part of the territory it claims, which is a violation of international law. What used to be coral reefs and rocks became air bases, for example. In 2020, the Coast Guard sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel and Chinese military ships intercepted a Malaysian oil tanker, both in that area. These were isolated measures, but with such strong symbolism that they brought American officials into the region at the time to appease allies and put pressure on China.
There are fears that the South China Sea is where diplomatic tensions between China and the United States and its allies reach the point of open military aggression.
Kelsey Broderick of the Eurasia Group’s Eurasia Advisory Group told BBC News Brazil that China is showing signs that it does not want open military conflict, but that the country appears closer to that today than it has been in the recent past. “China has increased its military capacity in recent years to be able to fight militarily on these border issues if necessary, because they are very important to the country.”
The Asian country has also invested heavily in its coast guard in recent years, which analysts say is in effect a de facto military fleet.
The countries of the so-called Western world have been looking suspiciously at China’s investment in infrastructure in the Pacific islands and also at controversial trade sanctions against countries such as Australia.
For the United States and Australia, this type of practice is “economic coercion”. Chinese sanctions have been adopted in response to Australian positions, such as public criticism of China for failing to conduct a transparent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus and creating obstacles for Chinese companies to work with tech giant Huawei.
In an interview with the BBC, Britain’s defense minister, Ben Wallace, said that China now had one of the largest military expenditures in history. “It’s expanding its navy and air force at a huge rate,” Wallace said. “It’s clearly using it in some of the contested areas.” And our allies in those areas want to be able to defend themselves.”
“We hear words about cooperation (from Chinese officials) and then we see threats against Taiwan, the events in Hong Kong and the rapid militarization of the South China Sea. So, when it comes to strategic issues, such obstacles appear to be such obstacles,” said Michael Shobridge, director of defense, strategy and national security at the institute. The Australian Strategic Policy: “The only thing that makes sense against China.”
Huiyao Wang, an adviser to the Chinese government and head of the Center for China and Globalization (one of China’s leading think tanks) said in an interview with the BBC that he did not understand the purpose of a military agreement of this scale in peacetime.
Asked whether the Aukus would not be in response to the expansion of the Chinese naval fleet, Wang said that this Chinese strategic move is not aimed at military attack, but is aimed at defending the country. “There are American ships and aircraft carriers, the Okos, that are cruising frequently in the China area. We don’t see the Chinese Navy in the Caribbean or Florida or Hawaii.”
For him, the agreement represented the “Cold War mentality of the United States and its allies.” Wang advocates the need to maintain the balance of power in the region as it is without outside interference.
“China can always solve problems with the state in the region. We don’t need outside powers to interfere or for them to travel thousands of kilometers to strengthen other countries. I don’t think this is necessary. Peaceful questions whether there is any conflict between the countries of the region.”
These submarines are much faster and more difficult to detect than conventional powered fleets. They can stay under water for months, travel longer distances and carry more weapons.
According to analysts, their presence in Australia is critical to US influence in the region.
The US is sharing its submarine technology for the first time in 50 years, something that has only been done with the UK, its closest ally.
Thus, Australia will become the seventh country in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, along with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, India and Russia.
“This is changing the balance of power in the region. If China faces a military situation in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, this new military partnership will influence the response that China has to prepare,” said Yoon Sun, the BBC’s co-director. East Asia Program at the Stimson Center in the US capital.
For John Blacksland, a professor in the Center for Strategic and Defense Studies at the Australian National University, Australia has clear gains from a military partnership, but on the other hand the country is tying its fate to the United States, and will not automatically get away with it. in a possible armed conflict.
In response to Aukus’ announcement, neighboring New Zealand said it would ban Australian submarines from entering its waters, in line with its current policy on having nuclear-powered submarines. According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, her country, which has been more reticent about siding with the United States or China, has not been invited to join the Aukus Agreement.
Australia has adopted the same stance of automatic non-alignment with the United States or China. But according to experts, the advance of Chinese military power in the region and retaliatory responses against Australia led Prime Minister Scott Morrison to choose one side on the geopolitical chessboard.
You have seen our new videos on Youtube? Subscribe to our channel!
“Devoted food specialist. General alcohol fanatic. Amateur explorer. Infuriatingly humble social media scholar. Analyst.”