Submarine Fleet Is Historic Leap for Defense, Australian PM Says

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s fleet of nuclear submarines provided under the Aukus agreement will be the “biggest leap in our defence capability in our history,” according to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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Albanese is expected to travel to Washington in March to reveal the intended design for Australia’s new nuclear submarine fleet, built in cooperation with the US and the UK under the Aukus security arrangement, which was signed in September 2021.

In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Albanese described Aukus as the “future,” saying Australia has long known that “partnerships and alliances are key to our security.”

“This will be the single biggest leap in our defense capability in our history,” Albanese said.

Albanese’s speech comes as his government works to sustain a warming relationship with China, Australia’s largest trading partner, while burnishing its security ties with longtime ally, the US.

The Chinese government has long voiced its strong opposition to the Aukus security agreement, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning saying earlier this month it would fuel “military confrontation.”

Albanese pledged during his speech to release an unclassified version of a major review commissioned into Australia’s defense forces before the federal budget on May 9.

The review is expected to recommend changes to Australia’s defense capabilities to improve long-range deterrence capabilities through increased spending on equipment such as missiles and drones.

“While there will inevitably be a focus on the capability gaps we need to fill, we should never lose sight of the extraordinary service performed by the men and women of our Australian Defense Forces,” he said.

Asked whether or not he would support increased foreign investment by China in Australia, particularly in critical minerals such as lithium, Albanese said any proposals would be dealt with based on their “merits.”

“But I am very conscious as well about Australia’s sovereign capabilities being protected,” he said.

(Adds details from Albanese’s speech from third paragraph)

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