US summit to finalise Aukus defence pact

 UK Prime Minister (PM) Rishi Sunak is to fly to California later to discuss key details of a new defence agree­ment with his Australian and US counterparts.

The 2021 Aukus pact aims to counter what the three nations see as China’s threat in the Indo-Pa­cific region.

At the time, China condemned the agreement as “extremely irre­sponsible”.

The meeting with US President, Joe Biden, and Australian PM, Anthony Albanese, is expected to agree the supply of nuclear pow­ered submarines to Australia.

Speaking ahead of the talks in San Diego, Mr Sunak said the UK’s global alliances were “our greatest source of strength and security”.

During the trip – Mr Sunak’s first to the US as PM – he is also set to unveil the UK’s new integrated review of defence and foreign policy, which have been updated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Sunak said the review will reflect “the future we want to deliver” to the UK – “secure, pros­perous and standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners”.

The plans to finalise the key details of the Aukus (Austra­lia-UK-US) pact come in light of strained diplomatic relations between the West and China.

Downing Street has recently cited “increasingly concerning behaviour of the Chinese Com­munist Party” and just last month the former head of MI6 said the UK must “wake up” to the threat posed by China’s challenges to global security.

Meanwhile, the US and China continue to clash on issues includ­ing Taiwan, China’s militarisation of the South China Sea and the origins of Covid-19. And more recently, the spy balloon saga heightened tensions between the superpowers.

Beijing has acknowledged that China-US relations have “seriously deviated”. Chinese Foreign Minis­ter, Qin Gang, said the diplomatic crisis caused by the balloon inci­dent could have been averted, but the US acted with “the presump­tion of guilt”.

The deal is set to see Australia become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nucle­ar-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India and Russia. —BBC

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