US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan Says AUKUS Shows Biden Administration ‘Believes’ In Australia

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White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States had made a “big bet” on the alliance by promising to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia as part of the alliance. of the AUKUS security pact.

Mr Sullivan made the remarks after giving a virtual speech at the Lowy Institute, where he said the Biden administration intended to replenish America’s diplomacy and national forces while “turning the page” on an “excessive emphasis on military engagement”.

He also said that the confrontation between the United States and China was not inevitable, promising that the United States government would stand up for its values ​​and “vigorously compete” with Beijing while trying to “responsibly ensure” that the competition. does not degenerate into conflict.

Mr Sullivan’s speech comes following a furious diplomatic dispute between Canberra and Paris over the federal government’s decision to abandon a multibillion-dollar submarine contract with France and continue a program nuclear submarines with the United States and the United Kingdom instead.

The United States engaged in intense diplomacy to repair relations with France after attacking the three AUKUS countries.

Late last month, US President Joe Biden told French President Emmanuel Macron that the handling of the AKUS announcement was “awkward” and said he was unaware that France had not been informed about it. advance of the submarine decision.

But Mr Sullivan declined to say whether the president’s comment was a criticism of the Morrison government, saying he kept “his eyes firmly fixed on the present and the future.”

“My take – I know it sounds like a sincere dodge, but a dodge nonetheless – is that I just think there is no profit in reviewing how we got to where we are,” a- he declared.

The USS Connecticut is half visible in the water during sea trials in December 2016.
The USS Connecticut (SSN 22, pictured in 2016) is a Seawolf-class fast attack submarine.(AP: Thiep Van Nguyen II / US Navy, file photo)

“We have developed, in our opinion, a very solid, meaningful and substantial action plan with the French on a range of issues, including those relating to the Indo-Pacific. And we are digging into the real work of AUKUS.”

When asked if the announcement of the nuclear submarines was a “big bet” on the alliance, Mr Sullivan said it proved the Biden administration was willing to back the rhetoric with actions for them. key partners.

“It’s a big bet. The president meant not only to Australia, but to the whole world, that if you are a friend, an ally and a strong partner, and you bet with us, we will bet with you.” , did he declare.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have set an 18-month deadline to reach an agreement on nuclear submarines.

The federal opposition supported the switch to nuclear technology, but warned the country now faces a looming capacity gap.

Indeed, the Navy’s existing Collins-class submarines may need to be effectively rebuilt twice in order to keep them operational until around 2040, when the new ships are expected to arrive.

Mr Sullivan said the United States was determined to keep its promise to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines, and said countries would “travel together” on the project “literally for decades to come. “.

“We are now deeply committed to doing the real work to make this happen in a way that delivers on the vision our leaders laid out when they hosted the virtual event together in September,” he told the Lowy Institute.

China is embarking on massive military build-up and the Morrison government says it needs the submarines because Australia faces an increasingly uncertain and dangerous strategic environment.

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The prime minister defended his position after the French president accused him of lying about a submarine deal.

US and China ‘have a choice’ to avoid conflict

While relations between the United States and China have collapsed in recent years, there are signs that the two countries are now taking interim measures to intensify dialogue and reduce tensions.

Last week, Sullivan met again with senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Switzerland as the two countries continue to grapple with a wide range of disputes over trade, human rights, espionage, Taiwan and the AUKUS pact.

Overnight, the United States and China also struck a climate change deal at the Glasgow summit, and speculation is mounting that Mr. Biden could hold a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping the next day. next week.

“From my perspective, all of this talk about the US and China entering a new cold war, or whether we’re on the path to conflict, or Thucydides’ trap – we have a choice not to do it, ”said Mr. Sullivan mentioned.

“Instead, we have a choice to move forward with what President Biden has called fierce competition. Where we are going to compete vigorously in several dimensions, including economics and technology. Where we are going defend our values. “

He also said the two countries would retain a substantial presence in the Indo-Pacific.

“We’re going to have to manage a relationship with China and work with China on some issues,” he told Lowy.

“But without apologizing, we would like the rules of the road on all matters that affect our citizens to fundamentally advance our interests and, to the extent possible, reflect our values.”

While the Biden administration has tried to revitalize diplomatic ties in Southeast Asia, several analysts say the Trump and Biden administrations have neglected economic ties with the region.

The Trump administration has withdrawn the United States from the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) economic agreement, and the Biden administration has shown little appetite to join the successor agreement, the CP-TPP.

Sullivan said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will visit the region soon to discuss the administration’s regional economic strategy, but offered few specific details.

“We think it’s possible to develop a global vision and align a whole bunch of countries around that. And so in the months to come, we will be making that effort,” he said.

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The two biggest transmitters in the world say they will work together

And while the United States has pressured Australia to commit to further reducing carbon emissions, Mr Sullivan has not criticized the Morrison government for not making a more ambitious pledge in 2030 for the Glasgow Climate Summit.

Instead, he simply said that countries making up about 65% of the global economy had set targets that “would keep (the world) within the 1.5 degree target (to limit global warming).”

“Now that still means 35% of the world hasn’t done that. And that means there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

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