Australia, Britain work on advancing Aukus deal as China’s clout grows
- British foreign and defence ministers held talks with their Australian counterparts for the first time since Canberra signed the pact to build nuclear submarines
- UK’s Elizabeth Truss said the security deal will also play a role in other areas of collaboration including cyberspace
Britain’s top foreign and defence officials held talks with their Australian counterparts in Sydney on Friday, focusing on advancing a security pact involving nuclear-powered submarines and sharing notes on countering China’s growing clout.
UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss and Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace met with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton for the first time since Canberra signed the deal in September.
“Aukus represents an enormous opportunity for us, not just in relation to the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines but also, rightly, as Marise points out, other capabilities which will deter acts of aggression,” Dutton told reporters in Sydney.
In an interview with The Australian published before the talks, Truss said the security pact was a “fantastic agreement to be taking forward” and the intention was to foster closer industrial collaboration.
“It is also about much closer technological collaboration because this is where a lot of the battle for the future will be fought,” she told the newspaper.
“It won’t just be fought in traditional defence. It will be in cyberspace, the use of quantum technology, and of artificial intelligence. These are the areas where we do want Aukus to go very deep,” she added.
Local media had suggested a plan to deploy British nuclear submarines to Australia might be announced after the talks on Friday. When asked, the UK’s Wallace said it was still “early days.” “We’ll take it one step at a time,” he said.
China has denied the allegations of human rights abuses and said politicising the Games runs “counter to the spirit of the Olympic Charter.”
Payne and Truss signed an agreement the day before to “maintain an internet that is open, free, peaceful and secure,” which will, in part, target state-based hackers and work to protect Asia-Pacific nations from malicious cyber activity.
“Of course Australia was the canary in the coal mine when it came to Chinese influence operations in democratic politics,” Medcalf said. “The British security establishment has its eye on the long term,” he added.