UK calls out China 'challenge' as subs deal looms
The UK's high commissioner says China poses a "systemic challenge" to democratic nations as Australia prepares to unveil details of its historic nuclear submarine deal.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed on Wednesday he would travel to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden after his trip this week to India.
It's been reported he will join Mr Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego early next week to announce the preferred nuclear submarine design Australia will acquire under the AUKUS agreement.
Addressing the National Press Club, UK high commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell said diplomacy and engagement in the Indo-Pacific had never been more important as Britain worked towards increasing its influence in the region.
"We recognise China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests. Competition between nations is healthy, coercion is not," she said.
"Our unwavering support for Ukraine has happened in parallel with the strengthening of our presence and engagement in the Pacific.
"These are not separate issues, these are sides of the same coin."
Ms Treadell also spoke of the importance of the AUKUS trilateral security alliance, the centre of which is the nuclear submarines deal.
She said the war in Ukraine made it clear what happened when defence and security were not supported.
"I believe the British people absolutely get the need for deterrence and to strengthen security around the world," she said.
"I can tell you this is a commitment of our government and that of the US and of Australia, it is about a capability our friends need in a contested world to have the solution they will need for the long-term."
Mr Albanese did not confirm his British counterpart's appearance at the US meeting when asked by reporters, but he confirmed the bilateral meeting with Mr Biden.
Defence Minister Richard Marles has said the nuclear submarine will be a trilateral boat amid speculation about whether Australia will go with an American or British design.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has repeatedly said the American Virginia-class submarines are the quickest and cheapest option for Australia.
But Ms Treadell said she spoke to Mr Dutton on Tuesday night as she warned against speculation on the final agreement.
"I was simply pointing out that I did not think such expressions were helpful on what is a genuine trilateral partnership started under his government," she said.
Ms Treadell added she wouldn't pre-empt any details ahead of the submarine announcement but lauded the agreement being underpinned by "the unique trust" the three nations shared.
"It reflects our shared values and our joint commitment to the security of the Indo-Pacific," she said.
"In the face of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, it perhaps would have been understandable for the UK to pull focus.
"Instead, we have doubled down on our commitment to the Indo-Pacific."
Former prime minister Scott Morrison, who negotiated the AUKUS deal, said his intentions were always to have the three nations produce more submarines, not to have any one country procure vessels at the expense of another.