'It will be tit-for-tat, everybody is going to have to now crank up their capabilities,' an expert warned about the likely fallout of the nuclear-powered submarine deal between US, Australia and UK. The first subs are expected to be delivered by the 2030s.
China will be responding to the recently-announced strategic partnership between the US, UK and Australia with renewed military efforts. The AUKUS deal, as it has come to be known, will involve the US making nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. The three countries signed a security deal to increase stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
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"Tensions between US and China were rising before this. There were rising tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea; there were increased US naval engagements in those areas, China has responded in kind -- so you have a build-up in military tensions in Asia," Michael Klare, a professor in peace and world security studies at Hampshire College told CNBC.
“It will be tit-for-tat, everybody is going to have to now crank up their capabilities,” he added.
With increased military build-up from China, tensions between the two groups are expected to increase as well. The AUKUS deal was signed with an aim to deal with increasing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and to act as a counterweight to Chinese influence in the region even though nations deny such claims, experts say.
“Given the geography of the region and given the security stakes in the region, one would hope that prudence would prevail,” said Ali Wyne, senior analyst at Eurasia Group.
“I think that right now, certainly the military balance of power is going to grow more contested,” he told CNBC.
China, in recent years, had been increasingly upping the aggression in the South China Sea through its ‘wolf warrior’ breed of diplomacy. The most populous nation in the world has often been accused by neighbours like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei of militarising the region. Other neighbours like Japan and South Korea have similarly been wary of growing Chinese influence in the region.
Michael Shoebridge, Director of Defence and National Security at ASPI, said, “There has been enormous change in the region’s strategic environment in just five years. Back in 2016, the Australian government did not see the need to deal with the sensitivity of nuclear submarines, let alone their complexity and expense.”
Shoebridge also said UK and US would not have shared this technology back then. “China's actions since that time under Xi Jinping have changed the environment fundamentally and made nuclear submarines a very sensible choice for Australia.”
China’s denouncement of the new deal was not the only one in the international community. France has also been critical of the deal, though due to different reasons altogether. France had signed a deal with Australia for providing them with nuclear submarines but the French deal was scuppered in favour of the new agreement.
China, which already possesses nuclear submarines that it developed indigenously, will have nearly two decades to build up its own counter to the Australian submarines through various military modernisation programmes.
"I think that we can expect the Chinese are going to accelerate its military modernisation efforts, it wants to push back against these efforts," Wyne said.
"So the question becomes what will China be able to accomplish in in this decade," Wyne added. “And what contribution will this new fleet of nuclear powered submarines contribute to deterrence capacity, starting -- let’s say in the early 2030s -- going forward."
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)