SYDNEY: Australia “absolutely” did not promise to support the US in any military conflict over Taiwan in return for a deal to acquire US nuclear-powered attack submarines, Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Sunday (Mar 19).
Australia, the US and Britain unveiled the multi-decade AUKUS project on Monday. Canberra is to buy the US Virginia-class military submarines, with Britain and Australia eventually producing and operating a new submarine class, SSN-AUKUS.
Australia’s centre-left Labor government says the A$368 billion (US$246 billion) deal is necessary given China’s military buildup in the region, which it has labelled the largest since World War II.
Asked whether Australia had given the US any commitment to help during a conflict over Taiwan in return for access to the submarines, Marles told ABC television: “Of course not, and nor was one sought.”
He said there was “absolutely not” a quid pro quo obligation on Australia from the deal.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the option of force to take the island back. President Joe Biden has said the US would defend Taiwan in the event of “an unprecedented attack” by China.
Under the AUKUS deal, which Asian allies welcomed but which Beijing has called an act of nuclear proliferation, the US will sell Australia three submarines, built by General Dynamics, in the early 2030s, with an option for Australia to buy two more.