President Biden is expected to announce a new group to share defense technology with Britain and Australia on Wednesday designed to push back against the rise of China.
He is due to speak at 5pm on ‘a national security initiative,’ but the White House has not released further details.
The working group, known by the acronym AUUKUS, will allow the three allies to share information in technological areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities, according to Politico, citing a White House official and congressional staffer.
Both characterized the plan as a move to counter China’s rise in the technology and military sectors.
It is one of a string of initiatives designed to demonstrate Washington’s global role after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Biden will next week host his first in-person summit of leaders of the Quad nations — made up of Australia, India, Japan and the United States — which have been coordinating against China’s growing reach.
‘Hosting the leaders of the Quad demonstrates the Biden-Harris administration’s priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations to meet the challenges of the 21st century, said Press Secretary Jen Psaki as she announced the September 24 summit in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will attend.
She added the leaders will discuss COVID-19, the climate crisis, emerging technologies, and promoting a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ – diplomatic speak for countering China’s ambitions.
Leaders will be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combatting COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Bill Hagerty, Republican senator and former ambassador to Japan, welcomed the plan after the ‘debacle’ of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
‘Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal debacle made India’s neighborhood more dangerous & raises legitimate questions for Japan and Australia as well, so it’s good we will be hosting Quad partners soon,’ he said on Twitter.
‘We must repair & renew our alliances, and this one is key.’
Officials are increasingly concerned at the way China is laying claim to the South China Sea, ignoring other nations territorial claims.
‘That assertion treads on the sovereignty of states in the region. We continue to support the region’s coastal states in upholding their rights under international law,’ said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in July.
A Congressional report from earlier in July found China ‘gaining effective control’ of the region in recent years, which is rich in oil and natural gas deposits, by increasing their military presence and building up artificial islands.
As a result, the US and allies make frequent ‘freedom of navigation’ voyages through international waters in the region, drawing angry rebukes from Beijing.
Last week the US Navy announced that the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group had entered the area for the first time during its current deployment.
‘The freedom of all nations to navigate in international waters is important, and especially vital in the South China Sea, where nearly a third of global maritime trade transits each year,’ said Rear Admiral Dan Martin, the group’s commander.
Beijing condemned the move when one ship in the group, the USS Benfold, sailed near the Spratly Islands, within 12 miles of a reef claimed by China.