The three countries announced their historic security arrangement, which is being billed as a move to counter threats posed by China, on Wednesday night. Known as Aukus, the pact will allow the US to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. The agreement will also see the three powers share cyber, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum and other technologies.
The plans sparked fury in China’s embassy in Washington, which accused the trio of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
The arrangement focuses on the military, marking it out as separate from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.
The Five Eyes, which formed in 1941, includes Canada and New Zealand alongside Australia, the US and Canada.
Beijing is diametrically opposed to the grouping of the five English-speaking democracies and has criticised it in the past.
However, unearthed accounts show that efforts are underway to expand the bloc to include Japan, China’s regional adversary.
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In July last year British MPs welcomed a proposal by Japan’s defence minister, Tarō Kōno, to make his country the sixth Five Eyes member.
The Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat, who founded the China Research Group, signalled his approval of the idea.
He said: “Five Eyes has been the core of our intelligence and defence architecture for decades.
“We should look at partners we can trust to deepen our alliances.
“Japan is an important strategic partner for many reasons and we should be looking at every opportunity to cooperate more closely.”
“Tech-partnerships with countries like the UK will be critical to countering China, pooling our investments and encouraging our people to study the skill sets needed for our high-tech sectors to grow.”
In Wednesday’s Aukus announcement, the word “China” was not mentioned explicitly, with the countries instead referring generally to activities in the Indo-Pacific region.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced their new alliance in a joint statement.
They said: “The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US, have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity.
“Today, with the formation of Aukus, we recommit ourselves to this vision.”
In his own statement Mr Johnson explained that the new pact was necessary to “defend Britain’s interests” in the Indo-Pacific region, which includes the heavily contested South China Sea.
The troubled waters have seen tension build in recent months as China has stepped up its military activity near Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway Chinese province.
The UK and US have warned Beijing over interfering with the self-governing island nation.