Boris Johnson insists Aukus nuclear-powered submarines ‘not intended to be adversarial’

Boris Johnson has insisted the nuclear-powered submarine programme agreed in a pact with Australia and the US is “not intended to be adversarial”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement on AUKUS on Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement on AUKUS on Thursday morning.

The UK, US and Australia have announced a historic security pact, dubbed AUKUS, in the Asia-Pacific in what has been seen as a clear effort to counter China.

It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US.

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Making a statement on Thursday on the new defence pact, the Prime Minister said: “I think it is important for the House to understand that AUKUS is not intended to be adversarial towards any other power.

“But it merely reflects the close relationship that we have with the United States and with Australia, the shared values that we have and the sheer level of trust between us that enables us to go to this extraordinary extent of sharing nuclear technology in the way that we are proposing to do.

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“Obviously, we also have a shared interest in promoting democracy, human rights, freedom of navigation and freedom of trade around the world. And I think those are values and perspectives that I hope the whole House will support.”

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Mr Johnson has told MPs the Indo-Pacific was becoming the “geopolitical centre of the world” and was “ever more important” to British trade and jobs.

He said: “The integrated review of foreign and defence policy described Britain’s renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific, a region that is fast becoming the geopolitical centre of the world, ever more important for British trade and therefore for British jobs and British livelihoods.

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“If there was ever any question about what global Britain’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific would mean in reality or what capabilities we might offer, then this partnership with Australia and the US provides the answer.

“It amounts to a new pillar of a strategy demonstrating Britain’s generational commitment to the security of the Indo-Pacific and showing exactly how we can help one of our oldest friends to preserve regional stability.”

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China has condemned the agreement as "extremely irresponsible", with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claiming the agreement "seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race".

The country’s embassy in Washington said the countries involved were creating a "Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice".

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UK defence secretary Ben Wallace was also forced to insist Britain did not “go fishing” for the pact after France called it a “stab in the back”.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused the Australians of a betrayal because the alliance meant they scrapped a multi-billion deal for France to provide subs.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the AUKUS partnership, but challenged the Prime Minister on how the plans would help influence China.

He said: “The strategic review identified China as a systemic competitor and China’s assertiveness does pose risks to UK interests in a secure pacific region, in stable trading environments and in democracy and human rights.”

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“We need to deal with those risks, defend our values and defend our interests, but the same review also rightly stated that the UK must maintain a commercial relationship with China and we must work with them on the defining global issues of the day … without diplomatic strategy and skill, those goals will come into conflict.”

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