The administration of US President Joe Biden is looking to expedite the production of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia amid heightened tensions with China, according to a report.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday the Biden administration wants to build “the first few” vessels on US soil.
Unnamed Western officials told the Journal that the potential agreement on the matter seeks to provide Australia with several nuclear submarines by the mid-2030s.
They added that the US and UK also want to lay the groundwork for long-term production of the vessels in Australia itself.
The US, Australia, and UK are members of AUKUS, a security pact that was announced in September 2021. Besides promoting “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it also claims to provide Australia with conventionally-armed and nuclear-powered submarines, thus significantly boosting its naval capabilities.
Western officials want to facilitate Australia to deploy a nuclear-powered fleet more quickly, the Journal reported.
Based on the AUKUS, the US and the UK will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.
China, which last year called the security pact a threat to global security, clashed with the trio last week at the UN nuclear watchdog, accusing the partnership of being involved in the illegal transfer of nuclear weapon materials.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's chief Rafael Grossi has warned that the submarines will be fueled by "very highly enriched uranium", and suggested it could be weapons-grade or close to it.
Grossi also said that the AUKUS security pact could trigger a race for nuclear submarines.
To date, no party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) other than the five countries the treaty recognizes as weapons states - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - has nuclear submarines.
China has clashed with the countries in the so-called AUKUS alliance at the UN nuclear watchdog over their plan to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
The alliance, which consists of the US, the UK and Australia, last year announced Australia's plans to acquire at least eight nuclear submarines.
Currently, no party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) other than the five countries the treaty recognizes as weapons states - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - has nuclear submarines. The vessels can stay underwater for longer than conventional ones and are harder to detect.
“The AUKUS partnership involves the illegal transfer of nuclear weapon materials, making it essentially an act of nuclear proliferation,” China said in a position paper sent to IAEA member states during this week’s quarterly meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
International Atomic Energy Agency's chief Rafael Grossi has said the submarines will be fueled by "very highly enriched uranium", suggesting it could be weapons-grade or close to it.