The leaders of Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. announced the creation of a new defense alliance on September 15. France soon complained that it had been excluded from the group. However, it is the only European country with territory in the Indo-Pacific region, which the alliance was intended to protect. France also complained that the alliance had brought about the cancellation of Australia's $90 billion purchase of French submarines.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. President Joe Biden announced during a virtual conference.

They said the partnership was to be known by the acronym AUKUS, which stands for Australia (A), United Kingdom (UK), and United States (US).

In a joint statement, the three leaders said, "Through AUKUS, our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defense interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties. We will promote deeper information and technology sharing."

They also said they would develop "deeper integration of security and defense-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains." The leaders also said they would strive to "deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities." The first project of AUKUS would be the development of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia's navy.

The entire statement can be viewed at whitehouse.gov/briefing-room.

The submarines would be built with technical know-how from the U.S. and the U.K., the statement explained. The Guardian quoted Morrison as saying the submarines would be built in the Australian city of Adelaide.

Cancellation of $90 billion deal

An immediate consequence of the AUKUS decision to build nuclear-powered submarines was Australia's cancellation of a $90 billion purchase of diesel-powered submarines from France.

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The cancellation and France's exclusion from AUKUS prompted a written response from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.

In the September 16 statement, the two said that the cancellation was "regrettable" and "only heightens the need to raise loud and clear the issue of European strategic autonomy."

They continued, "There is no other credible path for defending our interests and values around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific region." About France's island possessions in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the two ministers pointed out that the Indo-Pacific was home to almost two million French citizens "and more than 7,000 military personnel."

A passage from the statement was posted on Twitter with a link to the French-language version.

The entire English version be seen at the website of the French Embassy in the U.S. franceintheus.org.

'Countering China'

China was not mentioned in the AUKUS joint statement, but the belief that Morrison, Johnson, and Biden had China on their minds was reflected in many headlines. One in the Guardian said, “US, UK, and Australia forge a military alliance to counter China.” A report in Politico was titled “Biden announces joint deal with U.K.

and Australia to counter China.” A BBC headline said, “Aukus: UK, US, and Australia launch pact to counter China.” An editorial in Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, described AUKUS as "an effort of the US to build a new alliance against China."

Nuclear-powered submarines without nuclear weapons

The joint statement stressed, "Australia remains committed to fulfilling all of its obligations as non-nuclear weapons state, including with the International Atomic Energy Agency." NPR quoted Biden as stressing that Australia would have "conventionally armed submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors." The Guardian noted that Australia would become the seventh country in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines in its navy.

'Loophole' in Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Guardian said that Australia was taking advantage of a "loophole" in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which permitted countries without nuclear weapons to build submarines powered by nuclear reactors. The treaty allowed those countries to use enriched uranium or other fissile material from stockpiles controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Nothing was stopping Australia from using that material to develop nuclear arms, the Guardian said. The Global Times editorial said, "Although Washington claims that Australia's nuclear-powered submarines will not carry nuclear weapons, such restrictions are not reliable."

'A surprising and extremely welcome sign'

Ashley Townshend is the foreign policy and defense director at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre.

Politico quoted him saying that Biden's decision to help Australia build submarines was "a surprising and extremely welcome sign" of an unusual "willingness to empower close allies like Australia." NPR noted that the U.S. had not shared its technology for nuclear-powered submarines since providing it to the UK in 1958.