President Biden meets with UK, Australian PMs in San Diego and agrees to submarine deal
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – President Joe Biden visited San Diego Monday with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to lay out a phased plan for Australia to acquire conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.
Monday’s meeting outlined how Australia will acquire up to five nuclear-powered submarines from the United States as part of the agreement, according to the White House, marking the first time in 65 years that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology with another nation, and only the second time in history since a 1958 defense agreement with the United Kingdom.
“One of the most important parts of this partnership is increasing each of our countries’ submarine capabilities,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement.
“Under the first phase of the Optimal Pathway, the United States and the United Kingdom will immediately increase port visits of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia and then, as early as 2027, will begin rotating through Australia under Submarine Rotational Force-West.”
Following that first phase, the U.S. intends to sell three Virginia- class submarines to Australia in the 2030s, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed. Then, both Australia and the U.K. “will develop and deploy SSN-AUKUS, a new conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine that incorporates critical U.S. technologies.”
The trilateral Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership — known as AUKUS — announced in 2021 aims to boost Australia’s submarine program. Albanese called the plan “the biggest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in all of our history” and said the partnership would help create 20,000 Australian jobs.
While speaking Monday at Naval Base Point Loma, Biden said that along with an increase in port visits to Australia, there will be a rotation of U.S. and U.K. nuclear-powered subs in Australia starting later this decade.
Biden called AUKUS a “testament to the strength of the longstanding ties that unite us and to our shared commitment of ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains free and open, prosperous and secure, defined by opportunity for all — a shared commitment to create a future rooted in our common values.”
In forging the alliance, Sunak cited “new kinds of challenges” that have arisen, including “Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder, and division.”
Biden spoke for 39 minutes to about 40 people, including Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, at a fundraiser Monday night in Rancho Santa Fe, recounting his decision to make a third run for president in 2020 and touting his legislative record.
The event raised $1 million for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, according to a Democratic National Committee official.
Biden flew into Naval Air Station North Island, arriving shortly after noon. He was greeted upon arrival by Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener, commander of Naval Surface Forces, and Capt. Charles McKissick, commanding officer of Naval Base Coronado.
The visit was Biden’s first to the San Diego area since a 19-hour visit Oct. 3-4, when he spoke at MiraCosta College in Oceanside and a technology company in Carlsbad.
Biden is scheduled to travel Tuesday to the Los Angeles area, paying a visit to Monterey Park, the scene of a recent mass shooting that killed 11 people. Biden is expected to discuss efforts to reduce gun violence, according to the White House.
California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said Biden should use his two-day tour of California to address issues the GOP often opines on, such as inflation, fentanyl and energy prices.
“Californians deserve answers to the pressing issues they face because of the Biden administration’s failures, but we won’t hold our breath that we’ll get them on his California trip or anytime soon,” Patterson said in a statement.