Sydney, Australia, Mar 7 (EFE).- Australia announced on Monday that it will construct a new submarine base on the east coast of the country to deal with threats in the Indo-Pacific region, following a pact with the United States and United Kingdom that allows it to build nuclear-powered submarines provided by the US.
“Threats in our region are proliferating from both state and non-state actors. Militarization is expanding and evolving rapidly,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an address at a Lowy Institute event.
“The challenges we face continue to mount. They require us to increase our resilience, expand our capabilities and harden our defenses,” he added.
The Australian leader explicitly cited the expansion by China – an important trading partner of Australia but also one with whom it has strong diplomatic tensions -, which claims practically all the islands and atolls of the South China Sea, a key maritime trade route and rich in natural resources.
“There’s no doubt that China has become more assertive and is using its power in ways that are causing concern to nations across the region and beyond including our own,” Morrison added, referring to Beijing’s territorial claims that conflict with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Australia, which signed a defense agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom in September that gives it access to the construction of nuclear-powered submarines using American technology, will invest some AU$10 billion ($7.39 billion) in its new base.
In principle, the new base would serve to house those new nuclear submarines.
Morrison also warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has not been condemned by China, “is a reminder that although Australia’s focus is the Indo-Pacific, events elsewhere can affect our regional security.”
The AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) pact sparked tensions with France as its signing was preceded by Canberra’s cancellation of a $66 billion agreement to acquire 12 French conventionally-powered submarines.
Australia, which is also part of the Quad security pact with the United States, Japan and India, currently has a base for its six Collin-class submarines in the southwestern city of Perth.
Canberra has not yet announced where the new base – the first major defense base to be built in the country since Darwin’s Robertson Barracks in the 1990s – will be located although Morrison has said the government is considering three sites in the cities of Brisbane, Port Kembla and Newcastle. EFE