AUKUS leaders: Implementation of the AUKUS partnership has now begun

The leaders of AUKUS pact, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and US President Joe Biden, met yesterday to review the progress in implementing AUKUS partnership.

As disclosed, the partners reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and more broadly to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.

“The implementation of the AUKUS partnership has now begun. It has two related lines of effort,” the White House said in a joint media release.

Two lines of effort include the work related to the nuclear-powered submarine and the development of joint advanced military capabilities.

The statement also revealed that, since AUKUS was announced on September 15, 2021, the three countries have held multiple high-level meetings during which they have taken important steps toward the implementation of the pact.

Furthermore, seventeen trilateral working groups have been established, nine relating to conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines, and eight relating to other advanced military capabilities, and each of the groups met multiple times.

Information exchange

The Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA) entered into force on 8 February 2022, enabling AUKUS partners to share naval nuclear propulsion information trilaterally.

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New submarine base

Prime Minister Morrison announced, on 7 March, Australia’s plan to establish a future submarine base on the east coast of Australia to support the basing and disposition of future nuclear-powered submarines.

This new facility will operate in conjunction with Australia’s existing submarine base in Western Australia.

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Nuclear-powered submarine construction yard

According to the statement, the Australian Government is taking initial steps to secure additional land on which to build the nuclear-powered submarine construction yard, including land adjacent to the existing Osborne North Shipyard in South Australia. 

Nuclear stewardship

For several weeks in February, combined teams from Australia, the UK and the US visited multiple sites in Australia to baseline its nuclear stewardship, infrastructure, workforce, and industrial capabilities and requirements. 

On 28 February, findings were considered by the Joint Steering Group on submarines. The Joint Steering Group will use this information as it develops the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. 

Non-proliferation

Since the announcement of AUKUS, the partners have been engaging proactively with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the non-proliferation aspects of the AUKUS partnership.  

Following the initiation of technical consultations with the IAEA, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi reported to the IAEA Board of Governors on 7 March that Australia, the UK, and the US “are committed to ensuring the highest non-proliferation and safeguards standards are met.” 

“We are pleased with the progress in our trilateral program for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine capability. We are fully committed to establishing a robust approach to sharing naval propulsion technology with Australia that strengthens the global non-proliferation regime,” the leaders concluded.

Photo: Illustration; Royal Australian Navy photo of Collins-class submarines underway off Western Australia