WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia that will allow for a greater sharing of defense capabilities, a move that could deepen a growing chasm in US-China relations.
Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have appeared together virtually to detail the new alliance, which will be called AUKUS (pronounced AWK-us).
“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring long-term peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” said Biden, who said the new alliance reflects a broader trend of key European partners playing a role in the Indo-Pacific. “We need to be able to cope with both the current strategic environment in the region and its potential evolution. “
The new security alliance will likely be seen as a provocative move by China, which has repeatedly lashed out against Biden as he sought to refocus U.S. foreign policy on the Pacific early in his presidency.
Ahead of the announcement, a senior administration official sought to play down the notion that the alliance was meant to serve as a deterrent against China in the region. The official, who requested anonymity to preview the announcement, said the alliance’s formation did not target any country and was about a larger effort to support engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific by the Indo-Pacific. three nations.
“We will have a new opportunity to strengthen Britain’s place at the forefront of science and technology, by strengthening our national expertise, and perhaps most importantly, the UK, Australia and the United States will be united even more closely, ”Johnson said.
The three countries have agreed to share information in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber defense and underwater defense capabilities, the official said.
They have announced their intention to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. To date, the only country the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with is Britain. Biden said Australia is not looking to develop a nuclear weapons program and that information sharing will be limited to helping it develop a fleet of submarines.
The announcement of the new security alliance comes as US-China relations have deteriorated. Beijing has opposed officials in the Biden administration repeatedly calling on China for human rights abuses in Xianjing province, crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and cybersecurity violations from China, as well as Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has called “coercive and unfair” business practices.
Even though White House officials have spoken about China on several occasions, administration officials say they want to work with Beijing in areas of common interest, including fighting the pandemic and climate change.
Biden spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week amid growing frustration on the U.S. side that the high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers was largely unsuccessful.
After the 90-minute phone call, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi was concerned that the US government’s policy towards China had caused “serious difficulties” in relations. .
Asked on Tuesday about media reports that Xi had refused to commit to meeting him in person, the US president said that was “false.”
The United States and Australia, along with India and Japan, are members of a strategic dialogue known as the “Quad”. Biden is expected to welcome other Quad leaders to the White House next week.
Biden sought to rally allies to speak with a more unified voice on China and tried to send the message that he would take a drastically different approach to China than former President Donald Trump, who placed the questions first and foremost in the United States. -China relationship.
In June, at Biden’s request, the Group of Seven called on China to respect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province and allow a full investigation into the origins of COVID-19. While the allies largely agreed to work to compete with China, there was less unity on how a conflicting public position should be taken by the group.
The president also sought to convey to his allies, especially those of the Quad, that his administration would remain focused on China.
Along with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Biden underscored the United States’ commitment to protect the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing. In discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden stressed the need for “close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific”. And with Australian Morrison, the president stressed that the alliance of the two nations is essential to stability in the region.
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