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US luring ‘variety’ of nations to join AUKUS in defiance of Russia, China warnings

The Virginia-class USS North Dakota (SSN 784) submarine is seen during bravo sea trials in this US Navy handout picture taken in the Atlantic Ocean on August 18, 2013. (Photo via Reuters)

Senior US officials say they are in talks with a “variety” of countries about possibly adding them to the second phase of the Indo-Pacific AUKUS security pact, amid escalating tensions between world powers.

White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said the new allies and partners can take part in different areas, according to a report by ABC Australia on Tuesday.

Campbell did not name the countries but said there were a variety of nations interested.

“That might be in hypersonics, that could be in cybersecurity, it could be in anti-submarine warfare,” he told an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

AUKUS is a trilateral security pact announced in September 2021 between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States aimed at countering Russia and China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Under pillar one of the deal, the US and the UK will assist Australia to obtain nuclear-powered submarines.

Pillar two will see the three nations working more closely together on other types of defense capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.

According to Campbell, what potential allies are going to bring to the table must be “practical and operational.”

Canada and New Zealand have previously expressed an interest in joining Pillar Two.

A recent report by the US Congressional Research Service said that some analysts had argued that Japan should also be included to expand pillar two.

The call for allies in the second phase of the agreement comes after the recent mutiny against the Russian government and rising tensions between Moscow and Washington amid the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

The fleeting mutiny led by the Wagner Group against the Russian military leadership on Saturday intensified Russia-US tensions.

While Russia has announced it is going to investigate the possible involvement of foreign intelligence in the failed mutiny, reports by Western media suggest that the US already knew about Wagner Group’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin's plans to order his troops to march on Moscow.

Russia has been critical of the AUKUS, saying that the trilateral security pact is fueling regional tensions by trying to counter China.

China has also criticized the AUKUS countries, saying their cooperation “constituted serious nuclear proliferation risks,” exacerbated the arms race, and undermined stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned 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.

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