A leading defense expert has criticized the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal, saying it could lead to Australia being forced to follow the United States in a war against China.
Australia has committed to the vessels under the AUKUS trilateral security pact involving the US and the UK.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday that it will cost Australian taxpayers between $268 billion and $368 billion over the next 30 years.
He was joined by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden as he did at the announcement in San Diego on Tuesday.
Hugh White of the Australian National University, emeritus professor of strategic studies and former deputy secretary of the Defense Department, unleashed extraordinary criticism of the plan on Sunday.
His comment comes as concerns about Australia’s defense capability are raised after classified maps revealed Beijing’s missiles can hit targets across most of the country.
Australia’s commitment to pursue the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS was confirmed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese alongside UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden in San Diego on Tuesday.
Professor Hugh White (pictured) has criticized the AUKUS agreement, saying it acts as a promise that Australia will follow the US in a future conflict against China.
“This is a very serious transformation of the nature of our alliance with the United States,” Professor White said in a recorded interview for the UNA political podcast Democracy Sausage.
“The US doesn’t really care about our submarine capability, they care a lot about linking Australia in their containment strategy against China.”
Australia plans to purchase between three and five US-made Virginia-class nuclear submarines as an interim measure before eight AUKUS-class nuclear submarines based on a British design are built in Adelaide, with the first to be completed in 2042.
Professor White said he could not see why the US would sell its own submarines, of which it has fewer than it needs, unless it was absolutely certain Australia’s submarines would be available in the event of a major conflict in Asia.
He said a US-China war over Taiwan would be “World War III” and would have a “very good chance” of escalating into a nuclear conflict.
“Australia’s war experience is determined by the fact that we have tended to be on the winning side, but there is no reason to expect the United States to win in a war with China over Taiwan,” he warned.
He suggested that there was also a strong possibility that the AUKUS deal would fail under a future US administration and a worsening strategic environment.
The AUKUS announcement last week raised questions about how an already under-stretched budget will handle the associated cost.
It has also reignited concerns about how Australia can ensure it maintains the sovereign capacity of the vessels it purchases under the pact.
The submarine deal with the US will cost Australian taxpayers between $268 billion and $368 billion over the next 30 years (a crew member aboard the USS Asheville in Perth pictured)
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s announcement of the details of AUKUS has been met with criticism and praise.
Professor White said there were cheaper, faster, less risky and less demanding ways for Australia to get the submarines it needed, calling the AUKUS scheme a waste of money that “doesn’t make sense”.
“There won’t be a real net increase in the number of submarines available until well into the 2040s, even if it goes to plan, which it probably won’t,” he said.
It is not the first time Professor White has publicly criticized the AUKUS security agreement since it was signed by the Morrison government in 2021.
He wrote an article for The Saturday Paper last week titled ‘AUKUS Submarines Will Never Happen’.
The publication of that article coincided with Paul Keating’s incendiary appearance at the National Press Club in which he criticized the AUKUS pact as the “worst deal ever.”
Keating, who was Labor premier from 1991 to 1996, also attacked Albanese personally, cabinet members including Foreign Minister Penny Wong and journalists who asked him questions on Wednesday.
Speaking on the ANU podcast, Professor White stopped short of endorsing Mr Keating’s language, but said he shared his concerns about AUKUS.
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating (pictured) slammed the plan as the “worst deal ever” in the National Press Club while attacking the government.
Classified maps have revealed that China’s ground-based missiles could hit targets across most of Australia if fired from their bases in the South China Sea.
It comes as defense mapping revealed China’s DF-26 land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) could hit targets in two-thirds of Australia.
The classified document shows the range of 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers for the missiles if they were fired from their base on Hainan Island or the country’s militarized islands in the South China Sea.
A launch from Hainan Island could take out the Darwin defense base, RAAF Tindal and RAAF Learmouth, the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station or any target in the northwest, it reports the advertiser.
The news gets worse if Beijing fires missiles from its militarized islands like Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, which are much closer to the country.
These strikes could take out targets in any area of the Northern Territory, almost every inch of Western Australia, as far west as Townsville and the southwestern regions of South Australia.
Critical defense and intelligence facilities are spread across these states, including, but not limited to, Pine Gap in the Midwest, RAAF Pearce in WA and Fleet Base West.
It illustrates that China’s strong presence throughout the South China Sea could undermine Australia’s geographical advantages.