Australia, the UK, and the US are setting up a trilateral partnership aimed at addressing defence and security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region.
The security partnership, called AUKUS, will look to promote deeper information and technology sharing between the three governments, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the new security partnership would enhance existing networks such as ANZU, the Quad, and the Five Eyes alliance.
"We will foster deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities," the governments said in a joint statement.
While the three countries didn't mention China by name, the initiative appears to be a response to China's expansionist drive in the South China Sea and increasing belligerence towards Taiwan.
"Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday morning, alongside the respective leaders of the UK and US.
Speaking from Washington DC, US President Joe Biden said the three countries needed to address "the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve".
"The future of each of our nations and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead," Biden added.
The first initiative AUKUS will embark on is helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Morrison said the three countries would spend the next 18 months drawing up a joint plan to assemble the new Australian nuclear-powered submarine fleet. The submarine fleet will be built in Adelaide.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, touted the project would be "one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting decades and requiring the most advanced technology".
In announcing this initiative, the governments jointly said the submarines are not an attempt to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability, and that the countries would continue to meet their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
Along with the submarines, AUKUS will also look to create initiatives that increase cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities, the governments said.
The new trilateral partnership follows the three governments, along with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other nations accusing China of being the actor responsible for Exchange hack back in April.
"Australia doesn't judge lightly in public attributions, and when and if we choose to do so, it is always done in the context of what we believe to be in our strategic national interest," Morrison said at the time.
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