AUKUS will ‘stop China destroying world order’: US Navy Secretary
Picture: Joe Biden and Anthony Albanese shake hands over the AUKUS deal. Picture: Getty Images.
By Adam Creighton
Two of the most influential figures in the US Navy have cast the AUKUS security pact as a bulwark against Chinese and Russian attempts to “change the world we live in”, in remarks at a private dinner in Washington that included Ambassador Kevin Rudd and President Biden’s top adviser for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell.
In an apparent confirmation of Chinese and Russian accusations the three-nation military alliance, which has undertaken to equip Australia with at least eight nuclear powered submarines by the 2040s, was aimed at Beijing and Moscow, US Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro said AUKUS was critical to stopping China from “destroying the world order”.
“Having been born in Cuba I personally understand what communism is all about, and it is indeed the threat of China and their destruction of the world order that we are committed to as three nations to defeat in every possible way,” he said in a speech on Monday evening (Tuesday AEST) before a group of mainly Australian defence industry representatives.
China and Russia have repeatedly condemned the AUKUS pact as a destabilising, NATO-like alliance that could undermine global nuclear non-proliferation rules, given the promised transfer of US nuclear propulsion technology to Australia as part of the submarine deal.
Neither prime Minister Anthony Albanese nor President Joe Biden, in their remarks in San Diego last month alongside UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, where the three leaders unveiled how Australia would acquire nuclear submarines, mentioned China as a justification of the landmark deal, which emerged in September 2021.
“The months and the years ahead will not be easy, unquestionably there will be many challenges, technical challenges, financial challenges, political challenges,” Mr del Toro told a group dining in the Beaux Arts splendour of the Cosmos Club ballroom in Washington.
“But I am so confident that we will overcome them and put national security of not just our three nations, but indeed the entire world, in a better place to deter China, and Russia and any other adversary who wishes to contest us”.
The dinner organised and moderated by Christopher Pyne, who led a business and political delegation to the US to support the AUKUS deal, featuring Liberal senator James Paterson and Labor MP Meryl Swanson, included extensive remarks by Mr Rudd, which were off the record.
Republican Congressman Rob Wittman, who last year was sceptical the US could accommodate Australia’s requirements given its own needs, told The Australian South Australian shipbuilding yards could one day build submarines for the US navy.
“I want to make sure that we as quickly as possible, get an organic capability in Australia, to build the submarines, we have to do that,” he said in his remarks, pointing out the US’s own submarine inventory was set to fall from 50 to 26 by 2028, ahead of longer term planned increase to 66 “attack submarines”.
The plan unveiled in San Diego entailed Australia’s purchasing used Virginia class US submarines in the early 2030s to fill the looming capability gap as the navy’s Collins Class submarines retire, ahead of construction of a new series of nuclear-powered submarines – dubbed the SSN-AUKUS class – in South Australia.
“Make no mistake about the threat of our lifetime is the Chinese communist party. No two ways about it. It will test every aspect of who we are as nations,” the congressman, also vice-chairman of powerful House Armed Services Committee, said.
Members of the delegation, during the four-day trip to New York and Washington, had to field questions from US congressmen concerned about the prospect of faltering Labor party support for AUKUS, in the wake of former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s blistering attack on the agreement last month, according to Nine newspapers.
“I’ve already been asked by people here about it, who are really interested to know who he speaks on behalf of, whether he has support, and whether it’s a danger to AUKUS,” Senator Paterson told The Age earlier this week.