The AUKUS military pact designed to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines will be strengthened in the US after members of Congress created a special group to sharpen Washington’s focus on the historic agreement.
With China presenting a growing threat in the Indo-Pacific – and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine testing global security more broadly – senior US politicians announced on Friday (Saturday AEST) that they would form an AUKUS Working Group, solely dedicated to advancing the three-way alliance between America, Britain and Australia.
The bipartisan group, which was flagged exclusively by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last month, will elevate the importance of AUKUS on Capitol Hill, and also help to ensure there are no legislative roadblocks when key elements of the agreement are dealt with by Congress.
“AUKUS is a critical new partnership that should be at the forefront of our security architecture in the Indo-Pacific,” said Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher, who will co-chair the new group with fellow Republican Blake Moore and Democrat congressmen Joe Courtney and Derek Kilmer.
“While submarine technology sharing will be critical, AUKUS must not be limited to one domain. The AUKUS working group will play a key role in advancing the partnership across a variety of fronts with the sense of urgency that the moment deserves.”
The AUKUS agreement was announced in September last year, ending the contract given to France in 2016 to build 12 diesel electric-powered submarines to replace Australia’s Collins submarine fleet.
But the pact created a diplomatic spat by blindsiding French President Emmanuel Macron, who later accused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of lying to him while negotiating with Washington.
Under the agreement, all three countries involved will work together to build a class of nuclear-propelled submarines and associated technologies, starting with an 18-month study to work out what is achievable.