America’s Asia security head has admitted that the AUKUS pact, which includes the sale of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, was created to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.
Speaking on Wednesday, Kurt Campbell, the US coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the National Security Council, told an audience at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based international policy think tank, that AUKUS was more about taking a stand against China, than technology sharing.
The AUKUS partnership “is both a clear anxiety about what we’ve seen in terms of certain actions and policies on the part of China, but it is also a determination that no, we have a role in our future and we’re going to stand up,” he said.
Campbell contended that AUKUS, a partnership between the UK, US and Australia, was a “defining effort” against China by all the countries involved, noting that he was “extraordinarily proud of the achievement.”
The security expert contended that China’s actions in the region are provocative, while its “economic warfare” against Australia has reunited the former allies when just seven or eight years ago, the UK, US, and Australia were falling apart.
Beijing has attempted “to drive Australia to its knees and then find a way forward,” Campbell stated, claiming that Sino-Australian relations will eventually improve over time. China will respect Canberra’s resilience and will “re-engage on Australian terms,” he said.
The AUKUS nations had not previously admitted that the agreement sought to counter Chinese assertiveness in the region. Despite China’s grievances, diplomatic efforts and media attention had focused on France’s anger that the AUKUS deal saw Canberra cancel a diesel-electric submarine deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group.
China has warned that the agreement will prompt an arms race in the region, which is already fractured by territorial disputes. It also claims that the sharing of nuclear submarine technology is against international conventions of nuclear proliferation.
Beijing’s relations with Australia spiraled downwards last year after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent review into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shortly afterwards, China raised tariffs on Australian goods, including barley.