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Australia expects to finalise submarine deal with US

Australia’s prime minister has said he will soon meet President Joe Biden in the United States, where they are expected to unveil a nuclear submarine deal aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called it “the single biggest leap” in defence capability in the country’s history.

“I’ll be meeting with President Biden in the United States,” Albanese told reporters in Perth on Wednesday. 

“We’ll have further announcements about details soon about the arrangements that will be taking place.”

The deal is part of the fledgling regional security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States known as AUKUS.

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Deal worries regional allies 

Australia does not have the expertise to build its own nuclear subs – which have an extended range and powerful strike capabilities – and must buy from international producers.

Since September 2021, detailed behind-the-scenes talks have been taking place between the AUKUS partners about how to equip Australia’s military with sensitive nuclear-propulsion technology.
The deal has worried some of Australia’s largest regional allies, with both Indonesia and Malaysia questioning whether it could spark a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific.

Beijing has also voiced deep opposition to the project, which it sees as “dangerous” and designed to corner China.

While the subs will be powered by a nuclear reactor, Australia has ruled out equipping them with nuclear weapons. 

It is the first time US-derived nuclear submarine technologies will be exported since the 1960s, when the United States helped Britain design its own undersea fleet.

The submarine contract is worth tens of billions of US dollars, but experts say its significance goes beyond jobs created and investments pledged.

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