UK has increased defense spending by $6 billion to “fortify” against Russia and China.
And is expected to purchase four nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines from the US.
China opposes the AUKUS pact, claiming it exacerbates nuclear proliferation.
On the eve of highly anticipated discussions with AUKUS partners, the United States and Australia, the Premier of the UK declared that the nation would increase defense spending by $6 billion to “fortify” against mounting threats from Russia and China.
In a statement issued on Sunday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to use the additional funds, spread over two years, to fund the “next phase” of AUKUS, a security pact signed by the three countries in 2021, as well as to restock ammunition stocks, modernize the UK’s nuclear submarine program, and upgrade defense infrastructure.
In San Diego on Monday, Sunak, US President Joe Biden, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will have a joint news conference to discuss the AUKUS initiative in detail.
The partners are anticipated to declare that Australia would buy at least four nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines from the US, and that during the second phase of the program, a modified British Astute-class submarine will be built with US combat systems and weaponry.
The agreement is viewed as an effort to thwart Chinese military aspirations in the Pacific.
According to Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney, the Virginia-class subs supplied by the US will be of “the greatest caliber,” he told Australia’s national TV on Sunday.
“No one’s gonna be foisting off clunkers on good friends and allies,” said Courtney, a member of the US Congress’ Armed Services Committee and chair of its Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
“This is about really having the type of stealth and the type of reach which the strategic environment requires,” he said, naming China as the prime motivator for the submarine deal.
“China’s missile force is really, in my opinion, the real reason that’s driving this decision, because surface ships right now are so vulnerable,” Courtney said. “We saw it in Ukraine where two relatively crude short-range missiles took down the flagship of the Russian Navy. The surface is really a much more risky place.”
China continued to oppose the AUKUS pact last week, claiming that it “significantly exacerbates the risk of nuclear proliferation” and encourages an arms race that could destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.
“We urge the US, UK, and Australia to abandon the Cold War and zero-sum game mentality, faithfully fulfill their international obligations, and engage in efforts conducive to peace and stability in the region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Thursday in a regular news briefing.
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