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British PM heads to US to finalize anti-China Australian nuclear submarine deal

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will fly to the United States to unveil plans for supplying Australia with nuclear-powered submarines under the Aukus scheme, aimed at countering so-called threats from China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Speaking in San Diego on Sunday before his trip to California, Sunak hailed “global alliances” – such as the one formed between the UK, the US and Australia in September 2021 – as “our greatest source of strength and security.”

The scheduled meeting with US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was expected to agree the supply of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

Sunak hopes the trilateral summit on Monday will demonstrate his commitment to countering China.

The plans to finalize the key details of the Aukus pact come in light of strained diplomatic relations between the West and China.

China has time and again condemned the 2021 pact as "extremely irresponsible."

The plan is for nuclear submarines to be built in Adelaide, southern Australia, with Britain and the US providing consultation on technology for their production.

The deal is set to see Australia become only the seventh country in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines. But it will require Australia, which is not a nuclear power, to be supplied with a reactor, a move that Beijing has argued is a breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The signing of the pact sparked a row with France, which lost a deal with Australia to build 12 submarines.

The United States and China continue to clash on issues including Taiwan, and militarization of the South China Sea.

Beijing has said the China-US relations have "seriously deviated." Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said the diplomatic crisis caused by a recent balloon incident could have been averted but the US acted with "the presumption of guilt."

During the trip, Sunak is also set to unveil the UK's new review of defense and foreign policy, which have been updated after the Ukraine war. Sunak said the review will reflect "the future we want to deliver" to the UK - "secure, prosperous and standing shoulder to shoulder with our partners."

Since the onset of the war, the United States and Ukraine's other Western allies have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars' worth of weapons. The Pentagon recently said it was seeking more than $300 billion from the US government for Ukraine’s weapons procurement and research and development in the upcoming 2024 fiscal year.

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