Biden announces a defense deal with Australia in a bid to counter China

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration took a major step on Wednesday in challenging China’s broad territorial claims in the Pacific, announcing that the United States and Britain would help Australia to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western presence in the region. If the plan, announced on Wednesday by President Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, comes to fruition, Australia may be conducting routine patrols that could sail through areas of the South China Sea that Beijing now claims as its own exclusive zone, and range as far north as Taiwan. The announcement is a major step for Australia, which until recent years has been hesitant to push back directly at core Chinese interests. Australia has felt increasingly threatened, and three years ago was among the first nations to ban Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, from its networks. Now, with the prospect of deploying a new submarine fleet, with nuclear propulsion systems that offer limitless range and run so quietly that they are hard to detect, Australia would become a far more muscular player in the American-led alliance in the Pacific. And for Mr. Johnson, the new defense arrangement would bolster his effort to develop a new “Global Britain” strategy that focuses on the Pacific, the next step after Brexit took the country out of the European Union. American officials said Australia had committed never to arm the submarines with nuclear weapons; they would almost certainly carry conventional, submarine-launched cruise missiles. Australia is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bans it from acquiring or deploying nuclear weapons. Yet even conventionally-armed submarines, manned by Australian sailors, could alter the naval balance of power balance in the Pacific.“Attack submarines are big deal, and they send a big message,’’ said Vipin Narang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who studies the use of nuclear weapons and delivery systems in great-power competition. “This would be hard to imagine 5 years ago. And it would have been impossible 10 years ago. And that says a lot about China’s behavior in the region.”The announcement is the latest in a series of actions by Mr. Biden, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan and his Asia coordinator, Kurt Campbell, to design a strategy that pushes back on Chinese economic, military and technological expansionism. Over the past eight months they have blocked China from acquiring key technologies, including materials for semiconductor production; urged nations to reject Huawei; edged toward closer dealings with Taiwan and denounced China’s crackdown on Hong Kong. Next week Mr. Biden will gather the leaders of “the Quad” — an informal partnership of the United States, Japan, India and Australia — at the White House for an in-person meeting, another way to demonstrate common resolve in dealing with Beijing. Mr.

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Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/15/us/politics/biden-australia-britain-china.html

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