Sydney, Australia, Nov 28 (EFE).- The Australian government on Tuesday denied that its trilateral AUKUS security pact with the United Kingdom and the United States, which will allow the country to acquire nuclear submarines, would fuel an arms race in the Indo-Pacific as claimed by China.
During a speech at the National Press Club, the country’s Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy said that Australia was currently facing the “most challenging strategic environment since the Second World War.”
“When we look out to the region, we see intensifying great power competition, accelerating military build-up, rising tensions and reduced warning time for conflict,” the minister remarked.
Conroy defended the AUKUS alliance, which was sealed in September 2021 to foster different forms of security cooperation among the three nations in conflict with China over control in the Indo-Pacific area.
One of the clauses of the pact included the acquisition and construction of five nuclear submarines for Australia, a program that could be expanded in the future and cost the country AU$368 billion ($243.6 billion) over the next 30 years.
Beijing has harshly criticized the pact, accusing the three countries of fueling an arms race in the region.
Conroy also said that “conflict is far from inevitable,” although he reaffirmed that Australia would continue to invest as necessary in improving its defense capabilities “to deter conflict before it begins, and certainly before it reaches our shores.”
The Australian minister said that the acquisition of the submarines was to protect the nation surrounded by the Indian, Pacific, and Antarctic oceans, as well as its trade routes.
In peacetime, they will be used to “gather intelligence information” and “attack enemy targets” during a hypothetical war, the minister added.
The manufacture of the submersibles will make Australia the seventh country with the capacity to operate a nuclear-powered submarine, although the country has always maintained that they will not carry nuclear weapons. EFE