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AUKUS subs could be used against China

The US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says nuclear-powered submarines built in Australia may be used against China.
The US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says nuclear-powered submarines built in Australia may be used against China.

Nuclear-powered submarines built in Australia as part of AUKUS could be used against China in its conflict with Taiwan, it has been revealed.

United States Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell made the comments during a talk with Centre for New American Security chief executive Richard Fontaine on AUKUS securing the Indo-Pacific.

Dr Campbell said AUKUS could result in several submarines in multiple countries working in close co-ordination to deliver conventional ordnance from long distances.

“Those have enormous implications in a variety of scenarios, including cross-strait circumstances,” he said.

Dr Campbell said AUKUS was an audacious plan that required heavy lifting from Australia, the United Kingdom and the US.

“In Australia, it has meant unprecedented steps in educating a new generation of people for staffing and sustaining these programs,” he said.

He said AUKUS required engagement with the international community, which had been done at the highest level, and that in the Indo-Pacific region nations such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and India had increasingly worked more closely together.

“As the US and other nations confront a challenging security environment that the best way to maintain peace and security is to work constructively with allies and partners,” he said.

“I would argue that working closely with other nations not just diplomatically but in defence avenues has the consequences of strengthening peace and stability more generally.”

AUKMIN: UK MINISTERS, MARLES, WONG and MALI
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the post-Cold War era had come to an end and in its place was intense strategic competition mainly between the US and China that would shape the world to come. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the post-Cold War era had come to an end and in its place was intense strategic competition.

“Principally between the US and China, (it) will shape the world to come,” he said.

“Our region will not be immune from this dynamic – in fact, we are at the very centre of it.

“This competition is being accompanied by even greater investments in conventional and – regrettably – non-conventional forces.”

Speaking at the Sydney Institute, Mr Marles said military spending in the Indo-Pacific region had increased by almost 50 per cent in the past 10 years, with China engaging in the biggest conventional military build-up in the world since World War Two.

“In the year 2000, China had six nuclear-powered submarines. By the end of this decade, they will have 21. In the year 2000, China had 57 major warships. By the end of this decade, they will have 200,” he said.

“These investments are shifting the balance of military power in new and uncertain ways. We are in an environment where the risk of miscalculation increases, and the consequences are more severe.

“And as China’s strategic and economic weight grows, it is seeking to shape the world around it.

“For a country like Australia, this represents a challenge.”

AUKMIN: UK MINISTERS, MARLES, WONG and MALI
Despite Australia having a “constructive and productive” relationship with China Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said it was uncertain how power struggles between the two nations would unfold in the future. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes

Despite Australia having a “constructive and productive” relationship with China and the removal of recent trade impediments, Mr Marles said it was uncertain how power struggles between the two nations would unfold.

He said $11.1bn would be spent over the next decade to modernise and more than double the size of the Navy’s future surface combatant fleet.

“Australia seeks security in our region, and we aim to support the security of our region – through our defence co-operation, our regional presence, and our deterrence capabilities,” he said.

“It means Australia being more self-reliant as our strategic circumstances continue to become more complicated and our region becomes less predictable.

“It also means Australia contributing, with partners, to collective efforts to deter broader regional contingencies that would be disastrous for us and the region.

“Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine gives us an example of what it looks like when the global rules-based order is directly challenged.

“We cannot afford a similar outcome in our region.”

Senator Linda White Condolences
Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said comments made by the US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell were likely hypothetical. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Dr Campbell had called Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade counterparts.

“They discussed our ongoing co-operation to support a secure, prosperous, free and open Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“The parties also discussed how we can increase our co-ordination and co-operation to support Pacific Islands development aspirations as outlined in the Pacific Islands Forum 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.”

Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefings that Dr Campbell’s comments were likely hypothetical.

“We don’t talk about what the actual operational activities of our existing submarine fleet, the Collins Class are, nor would anybody expect us to around future fleets of the AUKUS submarines,” he said.