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Biden and the United Kingdom and Australia unveil an underwater security pact during the historic visit to San Diego

In a historic meeting in San Diego, President Biden and the UK and Australian prime ministers announced Monday that they are accelerating plans to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to help nations counter China’s military buildup in the India. Peaceful.

Australia will initially purchase three Virginia-class submarines from the US that will be armed with conventional weapons but no nuclear missiles. Contracts for two more multi-million dollar subs may be added at a later date.

The three countries will also collaborate on the design of a new submarine built with components from each nation that will require the US to share highly sensitive technology with the UK and Australia, long-time NATO allies. The United States has not made this type of deal since it helped the United Kingdom with the development of nuclear submarines in 1958.

The first of the new submarines will be built in the UK with others to follow in Australia. Construction will start in the early 2030s because the UK needs to expand its industrial capacity and Australia needs to create the capacity to build ships of this magnitude.

Monday’s deal stems from the so-called Australia-UK-US partnership, or AUKUS, which was formed in late 2021 with the aim of collectively finding ways to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, a large continental portion of Southeast Asia.

President Biden watches as Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, discusses a new partnership with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, at Point Loma Naval Base.

(KC Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Biden praised the partnership as he stood between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on a dock at Naval Base San Diego at Point Loma in a very rare and public joint speech. He called AUKUS “a powerful entity” and noted how much progress it has made in such a short time.

“Australia and the United Kingdom are two of America’s most staunch and capable allies,” Biden told the crowd of some 150 dignitaries, naval officers and members of Congress. They included Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, and Caroline Kennedy, US Ambassador to Australia.

“AUKUS has one overriding goal: to enhance stability in the Indo-Pacific amid rapidly changing dynamics,” he added.

The pact is driven by concerns that China could, at some point, invade Taiwan, sparking a global military crisis. The allies also say the military bases China is building on artificial islands in the South China Sea could be used to thwart trade and the movement of ships and planes in that part of the world.

“This is a big problem,” said Tai Ming Cheung, a China expert at UC San Diego.

“The United States has primarily engaged, as we’ve seen with NATO, militaries in alliances, but has historically been unwilling to engage in industry partnerships and share the most sensitive technology secrets.”

President Biden and the Australian and British Prime Ministers take the stage.

President Biden, center, walks with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, with US Navy warships in the background.

(KC Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune)

He added that “the United States has to have a more global footprint (militarily). They need a lot more allies to help them in the Indo-Pacific.”

The United States currently has 71 submarines China is rapidly building its own vessels and is expected to overtake the US in the total number of submarines by the end of this decade.

The deal “is being done to help our closest allies (become) more powerful and able to convince Beijing that it is no longer operating in a permissive security environment,” said Charles Edel, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic Studies. and International in Washington. DC, he said at a press conference.

The new security pact will be specified in three sentences. The first is just starting when the US starts having US submarines visit bases in Australia. The UK will do the same. Australian sailors will join the navies of both countries and study at schools specializing in nuclear-powered submarines, the Biden administration said. In 2027, the US and UK will begin placing their own submarines in Australian ports on a rotating basis.

Australia has six Collins-class diesel submarines, which don’t come close to pareo the offensive and defensive capabilities of various types of US nuclear “ships”, including the four Los Angeles-class ships homeported in San Diego.

Those submarines operate out of Naval Base San Diego in San Diego Bay.

The United States builds submarines in Virginia and Connecticut, which are at or near capacity, defense analysts say. First lady Jill Biden is a patron of a Virginia-class submarine, the USS Delaware, the president noted Monday, “and she never lets me forget it.”

Air Force One, carrying President Biden, prior to landing at Naval Air Station North Island.

Air Force One, carrying President Biden, prior to landing at Naval Air Station North Island.

(Howard Lipin / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Air Force One landed at 12:05 p.m. at nearby Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado. Biden was greeted on the tarmac by the commander of the Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener, and Capt. Charles McKissick, commanding officer of the Coronado Naval Base. He then set off in the motorcade for Point Loma with his daughter, Ashley Biden, and his granddaughter, Natalie, who is on spring break.

The caravan passed small groups of protesters on the route, including some supporters of former President Trump and those protesting the construction of the new border wall at Parque de la Amistad. Other people filmed the procession through the city streets with their phones and waved.

Biden was scheduled to meet separately with Albanese and Sunak after their joint appearance at 1:45 p.m. He will then be greeted by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and other local elected officials at San Diego International Airport late in the afternoon.

Biden will wrap up his visit to San Diego by attending a Democratic National Committee reception at Rancho Santa Fe on Monday night.

On Tuesday, the president is scheduled to visit Monterey Park, the site of a mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded nine.

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report.