Panel: New National Defense Strategy Needs More Substance, Clear Goals

The next National Defense Strategy, scheduled for release next month, must spell out “what are we going to do; when are we going to do it; and who’s going to do it,” the former civilian chief of Pentagon acquisition said Wednesday. Ellen Lord, speaking at an Atlantic Council online forum, said the secretary of defense […]

The next National Defense Strategy, scheduled for release next month, must spell out “what are we going to do; when are we going to do it; and who’s going to do it,” the former civilian chief of Pentagon acquisition said Wednesday.

Ellen Lord, speaking at an Atlantic Council online forum, said the secretary of defense should say, “these are the types of scorecards I want to see.” This way, the strategy would have set “actual goals … to bring this NDS to life,” she said.

While expecting the strategy to be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, former CIA Director David Petraeus said he – like Lord – is concerned about implementation. “What happens on Capitol Hill when it comes to procurement” as the NDS goes through the authorization and appropriations processes, the retired Army general asked rhetorically.

Lord added later that while the key is technology in the strategy, the Pentagon itself has to examine how it goes through its Planning, Programming, Budget and Evaluation, or PPBE, process to ensure it’s meeting the NDS’s goals before it sends acquisition requests to Congress.

“There has to be more substance” to the document to make it work with allies, who are asking “where’s the beef,” retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright said. He said a “simple thing we can do” is share artificial intelligence advances with them. He suggested devising a tiered metric for AI similar to the one the Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE International, has for car manufacturers.

Later, he added that by sharing unprocessed AI data with “all our allies, we bring diversity and scale” to counter powers like China and Russia that they cannot match.

“The time is now to lean forward” in sharing technologies with allies, as is being done with the agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, or AUKUS, “so we can build interoperable systems,” said Lord.

But Petraeus offered a word of caution. “There is an enormous gulf between the United States and everyone else” in terms of defense spending and technology “and it has grown” over the last two decades, he said.

Noting several times that the U.S. has encouraged European allies to spend more on their own defenses against an aggressive Russia, the fact is “NATO cannot act without the U.S.,” which was evident in the pullout from Afghanistan, and that would be the case in Ukraine as well if the crisis there escalates. Russia in recent weeks has amassed troops on its border with Ukraine.

The Europeans “are very much on the peacekeeping end of things,” like Bosnia, he said.

As for future agreements like AUKUS, Lord said “it all comes back to capability” in buying systems from allies. Questions that should be posed in these transactions, as is done with domestic suppliers, include “do they have cyber secure networks” and “can those weapons systems not be hacked when in use?”

A former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cartwright added “we’re going to have legacy systems for the next 30 years” in America’s inventory. If the Pentagon can’t bring these systems to a mid-level tier, “you ought to divest it” to invest in the future.

Lord and Cartwright also emphasized speed down to the millisecond in building defense systems using AI and space-based and cyber platforms and networks. Assessing potential great power enemies, Cartwright said, “they’re not going to give us a geographic place to attack.”

An acquisition goal should be to get a weapons system “in the hands of a warfighter to experiment with,” Lord added, “this isn’t a flight checklist… give everyone a little breathing room.”

All agreed that the strategy has to include allies in a meaningful way.

“Consultation, consultation, consultation,” Petraeus said, as NATO heads into negotiations with Russia. This reflects the variety of approaches among the 30 members as to how to tackle an issue as tricky as Ukraine.

Cartwright said, “consultation is number 1. … Number two is sharing” of knowledge. The U.S. needs to have “the wherewithal to say ‘I can do this, I can’t do that.’”

Chinese Carrier Group Drills in Pacific Ocean; Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group Wraps Up Exercise with Australia

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – A six-ship People’s Liberation Army Navy carrier group led by aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) is currently operating in the Pacific Ocean, according to releases from the Japanese military. The PLAN carrier group featuring Liaoning, destroyer Nanchang (101), a Luyang III-class destroyer, frigate Rizhao (598) and another Type 54A Jiangkai II frigate, […]

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. PLA Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – A six-ship People’s Liberation Army Navy carrier group led by aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) is currently operating in the Pacific Ocean, according to releases from the Japanese military.

The PLAN carrier group featuring Liaoning, destroyer Nanchang (101), a Luyang III-class destroyer, frigate Rizhao (598) and another Type 54A Jiangkai II frigate, along with a Type 901 replenishment ship, was in the vicinity of the waters off the uninhabited Oki Daito Island, 315 kilometers, or about 196 miles, southeast of Okinawa on Dec. 20, the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self-Defense Force said in a Tuesday news release.

The carrier was conducting flight operations with J-15 fighter aircraft along with Z-9 and Z-18 helicopters from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. that day. The JSO issued an earlier release on the same day that noted the activity of the PLAN carrier group on Dec. 19, saying it was in the vicinity of Kita Daito Island, 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, east of Okinawa and conducting flight operations from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Liaoning, Nanchang, Rizhao and the Type 901 replenishment ship were sighted in the area west of the Danjo Islands in the East China on Dec. 15, traveling southeast with the four ships, then operating between Miyako Island and Okinawa on Dec. 16 and sailed southwards into the Pacific Ocean from the East China Sea, according to a news release the JSO issued on Friday. Helicopters were conducting flight operations throughout the two days, the JSO said. Although the releases made no mention of it, it is likely that the unnamed Luyang III-class destroyer and Jiangkai II frigate were already operating in the Pacific Ocean and subsequently joined the four ships there.

Friday’s release also said the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer Akizuki (DD-115) – along with P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu and P-3 Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 5 at Naha Air Base, Okinawa – were monitoring the passage of the PLAN ships on the 15th and 16th. Tuesday’s releases noted that Izumo was monitoring the PLAN carrier group and that Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters had been scrambled in response to the carrier launching fighter aircraft.

An MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, flies next to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) while transiting the Indian Ocean during a bilateral training exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force, Dec. 17, 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy’s Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group continues it deployment in the Western Pacific ,with the strike group recently finishing a bilateral training exercise with the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force that took place from Dec. 10 through 19 in the Indian Ocean off Australia. The exercise was for both countries “to deploy high-end training tactics and improve proficiencies in advanced kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities, capable of projecting dominant defensives against a multi-domain threat environment,” according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release.

During the exercise, the forces drilled for scenarios ranging from electronic warfare operations to combined anti-surface and anti-air engagements, 7th Fleet said.

“Conducting advanced kinetic and non-kinetic bilateral exercises with our allies and partners increases our collective ability to outthink and outfight any adversary threatening our open seas,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of Carrier Strike Group One, said in the news release. “Our long-term alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region preserve maritime prosperity and international order, and enable seamless integration, communication, and collaboration across the region.”

Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH-152) approaches Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) to begin a refueling-at-sea, Dec. 11, 2021, in the Savu Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) represented the RAN with RAAF P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft also participating. Warramunga returned to its homeport at Fleet Base West, Rockingham last week.

The Carl Vinson CSG participating in the exercise included carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106), and replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194).

U.S. Navy Wraps Up Drills With Partners in Philippine Sea, Strait of Malacca

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The U.S Navy this week completed exercises in the Philippine Sea with multilateral partners and an exercise with Malaysia in the Malacca Strait. The multilateral ANNUALEX exercise hosted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force concluded on Tuesday. The drills also included the German Navy, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal […]

Sailors transit the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) after debarking a CMV-22B Osprey, assigned to the “Titans” of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron (VRM) 30, Dec. 1, 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The U.S Navy this week completed exercises in the Philippine Sea with multilateral partners and an exercise with Malaysia in the Malacca Strait.
The multilateral ANNUALEX exercise hosted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force concluded on Tuesday. The drills also included the German Navy, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.

The U.S. participated with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG57), destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG106), replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO 194) and an unnamed Los Angeles class submarine.

The German Navy participated with frigate FGS Bayern (F217), the RAN with destroyer HMAS Brisbane (D41) and frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152), and the RCN with HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338). Prior to the exercise, Warramunga and Bayern were on separate monitoring and surveillance patrols in the East China Sea in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

JMSDF ships participating in the drills included helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183); destroyers JS Inazuma (DD-105), JS Harusame (DD-102), JS Onami (DD-111), JS Teruzuki (DD-116), JS Asahi (DD-119), JS Yamagiri (DD-152), JS Kirishima (DDG-174) and JS Chokai (DDG-176); replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) and a JMSDF submarine.

The JMSDF also held an exercise with destroyer JS Abukuma (DE-229) and Peruvian Navy corvette BAP Guise (CC-28) on Monday in the East China Sea. Guise is the former Republic of Korea Navy corvette ROKS Suncheon (PCC-767), which was formally transferred over to the Peruvian Navy on Nov. 26 at the Jinhae Naval Base in Korea in a ceremony attended by the Korean Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Boo Suk-jong and Peruvian Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Alberto Alcalá. Guise is the second Pohang-class corvette transferred to the Peruvian Navy. BAP Ferré (CM-27), formerly ROKS Gyeongju (PCC-758), was transferred in 2015. Guise is currently in Yokosuka for a replenishment stop before continuing its voyage home, with the ship expected to arrive in Peru the first week of January 2022.

From left, the Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Lekir (F 26) and frigate KD Lekiu (FFG 30) and U.S. Navy Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) sail in formation during Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

Over in the Malacca Strait, the U.S Navy and the Royal Malaysian Navy concluded Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021 on Tuesday. The U.S. Navy participated with the Littoral Combat Ship USS Tulsa (LCS-16) and a P-8A Poseidon, which staged out of the Royal Malaysian Air Force Butterworth in Malaysia. The Royal Malaysian Navy sent frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30) and corvette KD Lekir (FSG26) for the drills. MTA Malaysia is part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. The U.S. already completed the Indonesia and Brunei phases of the series earlier in November. MTA Malaysia resumed this year with safety mitigation measures after being cancelled in 2020 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Russia began its first-ever naval exercise with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The focus for the exercise, known as ASEAN – Russia Naval Exercise (ARNEX) 2021, is “Joint Actions to Ensure the Safety of Maritime Economic Activity and Civil Navigations.”

The exercise will continue through Dec. 3 in Indonesian territorial waters off the coast of North Sumatera. Destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548) will represent Russia, which is the third country after China and the U.S. to hold naval exercises with the regional body. China conducted exercises with ASEAN in 2018 and 2019, while the U.S. held one in 2019. Neither country has participated in additional exercises with ASEAN since 2019 because of the pandemic.

The Vietnam People’s Navy frigate VPNS Ly Thai To (HQ-012) arrived on Sunday at the Belawan International Container Terminal (BICT) in Belawan, North Sumatra for the exercise. Other ASEAN ships participating in the drills are Bruneian OPV KDB Daruttaqwa (09), Indonesian frigate KRI Raden Eddy Martadinata (331), Malaysian frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30), Myanmar frigate UMS Kyansitta (F12), Singaporean corvette RSS Vigour (92) and Thai frigate HTMS Kraburi (457).

In other developments, Russian Navy corvette RFS Gremyashchiy (337); submarines RFS Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (B274) and RFS Volkhov (B603); tanker RFS Pechenga; and tug RFS Alatau are making their way through the Sea of Japan. The corvette and submarines were previously part of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet and are now en-route to their new home bases as part of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. They linked up with the two support ships prior to making a port call in Manila, Philippines, on Nov. 16. The Russian ships were sighted 170 kilometers south of Iriomote Island at 4 p.m. on Nov. 23 and subsequently moved north in the sea area between Okinawa and Miyako-jima, according to a Tuesday news release from the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self-Defense Force.

The group sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait, heading for the Sea of ​​Japan on Saturday. Japanese P-1s of Fleet Air Wing 4, stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, and P-3C Orions of Fleet Air Wing 5, stationed at Naha Air Base, monitored the Russian ships’ voyages by air. Japanese destroyers JS Abukuma (DE-229), JS Setogiri (DD-156) and JS Sendai (DE-232); minesweeper JS Kuroshima (MSC-692) and patrol boat JS Otaka (PG-826) shadowed the ships on the surface.

Pentagon Announces Completion of Global Posture Review

The Department of Defense on Monday announced the completion of its Global Posture Review, which offers few changes in force lay down and includes a series of previously announced troop movements. In a press briefing Monday afternoon, Mara Karlin, who is performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy, shared highlights […]

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transits the Philippine Sea to Guam for a port visit on Nov. 11, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Department of Defense on Monday announced the completion of its Global Posture Review, which offers few changes in force lay down and includes a series of previously announced troop movements.

In a press briefing Monday afternoon, Mara Karlin, who is performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy, shared highlights of the review, which will not be released for the public, she said, citing classification for security reasons and to protect the confidentiality of consultations the country did with allies and partner countries.

The review will be “internalized” by the Department of Defense, as it will be used to guide the National Defense Strategy, she said. 

The priority region will be the Indo-Pacific, consistent with the secretary of Defense’s focus on China as the country’s pacing threat, Karlin said. The review calls for infrastructure changes in Australia and the Pacific Islands, including Guam, examples of the country’s posture shift. These improvements could include munitions storage, airfield upgrades, fuel storage and logistics facilities over the course of a few years, although Karlin did not give a more specific timeline.

“In the Indo-Pacific, the review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea. These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities; enhancing infrastructure in Australia and the Pacific Islands; and planning rotational aircraft deployments in Australia, as announced in September,” the Pentagon said in a news release. “The GPR also informed Secretary Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously-rotational attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in the Republic of Korea, announced earlier this year.”

Karlin did not have a cost estimate for the infrastructure changes, or other components of the review, saying it would be determined as the department goes through budget reviews.

Other regional highlights include a continued presence in Germany, with President Joe Biden reversing the previous administration’s cap on the number of active-duty forces in the country. The United States will also retain seven military sites in Germany and Belgium that had been previously marked to be returned to the host nations, Karlin said. 

The posture review also includes plans for the Middle East and Central and South Americas regions, although Karlin provided few details in her briefing.

The Pentagon did not provide details on how the new review would affect Navy surface assets. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday in April said the Global Posture Review could lead to changes in how aircraft carriers and other Navy ships are deployed.

“During the secretary of defense’s confirmation hearing, there were two things that stood out for me with respect to the NDS: one is that he wanted to do his own assessment to see if all the elements of the NDS were still applicable – in other words, did he have to change anything in the NDS? And the second thing, and I think it kind of gets to your point, are we resourcing the day-to-day posture of the globe in the right way? Are we implementing the NDS in the manner that it was supposed to be implemented?” Gilday said at the time.

“I think that the global posture review will help give us a better understanding of where we stand right now to answer the secretary’s questions about implementation of the NDS and whether any changes are required, and I think that ought to drive our use of not only aircraft carriers but the entire joint force. Carriers are of course an important element of that” and one of the highest priorities for combatant commanders, Gilday added.

Meanwhile, the Navy and Pentagon are performing separate studies on the future fleet architecture, USNI News previously reported. The Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) is assessing the fleet design for the Fiscal Year 2023 budget that will come out early next year, while the Navy is analyzing the fleet architecture needed to counter future threats past the FY 2024 budget.

Gilday has said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is aiming to release an updated National Defense Strategy in 2022.

“The Global Posture Review will be a part of a bigger puzzle. The Secretary of Defense is aiming for 2022 for the release of an updated National Defense Strategy that should give us additional guidance in terms of how the globe is going to be postured, how he sees us in the competition phase, and then poised for potential crisis against China,” the chief of naval operations said in September.

Gilday also said he expects the updated National Defense Strategy to alter global force posture both for regions and domains.

Australian Prime Minister: Chinese Navy Has ‘Every Right’ to Operate In Our Exclusive Economic Zone

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Chinese naval ships have every right to operate in Australia’s exclusive economic zone, just as Australia and other countries have the right to freedom of movement in the South China Sea, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday. During a press conference today in South Australia, Morrison was asked about reports […]

A naval soldier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) views through a pair of binoculars onboard China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning as it visits a military harbour on the South China Sea. Xinhua Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Chinese naval ships have every right to operate in Australia’s exclusive economic zone, just as Australia and other countries have the right to freedom of movement in the South China Sea, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday.

During a press conference today in South Australia, Morrison was asked about reports that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surveillance vessel Yuhengxing (798) had been conducting surveillance off Australia for three weeks in August and September.

“They have every right to be there under international maritime law, just like we have every right to be in the South China Sea, and other free liberal democratic countries have every right to be having freedom of movement in the South China Sea. Our movements in the South China Sea and those of other countries has been an issue of challenge to Australia,” Morrison said.

Morrison went on to say that because Australia has stood up for its right to be in the South China Sea, emphasized freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and is building up its defense capability – including the construction of nuclear powered submarines – China has taken up issues with Australia and the two nations have a strained relationship. Morrison added that these issues, however, “are not issues that any self-respecting government like Australia’s, or indeed any self-respecting liberal democracy, would ever give ground on.”

The Australian Prime Minister said the situation demonstrated that no one could be complacent in the Indo-Pacific.

“They have every right to be where they are. We knew they were there and they are, they are able to be there under international maritime law,” Morrison said. “But don’t think for a second that we weren’t keeping our eye on them, as they were seeking to keep an eye on us. What it demonstrates is now no one can be complacent about the situation in the Indo-Pacific.”

Australia’s Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that the vessel was seen circling Australia’s coast for three weeks in August and September, and that sources had informed the paper that the ship entered Australia’s 200-kilometer EEZ off the coast of Darwin in August before slowly heading south, hugging the coastline and monitoring a number of crucial military training areas as it traveled as far south as Sydney. The surveillance ship then went across the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand. In response to media queries on the matter, Australia’s Department of Defence supplied a photo of the ship in question, identifying it as the Yuhengxing.

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton on Friday criticized China in a speech at the National Press Club of Australia, stating that while the Chinese government says it will work with other countries to maintain freedom of navigation and safe maritime routes, and address peaceful territorial disputes with dialogue and consultation, what actually happens is different.

“And yet we bear witness to a significant disconnect between words and actions, between the rhetoric and reality. Along with peoples of the Indo-Pacific and the world, Australians have watched on as the Chinese government has engaged in increasingly alarming activities,” Dutton said.

Among the examples Dutton gave of such activities were the occupation, fabrication and militarization of disputed features to establish 20 outposts in the South China Sea, the rejection of The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration 2016 verdict on claims of historic rights in the South China Sea, sending increasing numbers of military jets into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, using militia-crewed fishing vessels to intrude in the Philippines’ EEZ, and escalating tensions on China’s border with India and in the East China Sea with Japan.

The Australian Defence Minister said that China is using its increasing power in security, trade and economics, media and the internet to compel compliance and noted that China has also rapidly expanded the size and capabilities of its military. China now has the largest navy in the world with some 355 ships and submarines, a naval battle force that has more than tripled in size in two decades. He pointed out that averaged over the last four years, China has built new naval vessels equivalent in tonnage to the entire Royal Australian Navy fleet every 18 months and that by 2030, China’s navy is predicted to number some 460 vessels.

Chinese troops patrol disputed holding in the Spratly Islands. Photo via Reuters

Dutton added that China also has two other fleets subordinated to its armed forces – a coast guard that has doubled from 60 to 130 1000-ton ships in around a decade and a maritime militia that routinely has 300 vessels operating in the Spratly Islands on any given day. He also noted that the China Coast Guard alone possesses capabilities and maintains an operational tempo on par with some southeast Asian navies.

He said that nations seek to bolster their defense capabilities when facing aggression and that Australia plans to complement its defense capabilities with strong relationships, like partnerships with like-minded countries that want peace in the Indo-Pacific region.

Dutton also pointed out that the technology sharing agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – known as AUKUS – is not a partnership trying to foist an agenda on other countries in the region.

“Rather, it complements a broader network of partnerships – like ASEAN, the Five Eyes, the Five Power Defence Arrangements, the Quad and other like-minded arrangements – which are committed to promoting sovereignty, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Dutton said.

The Chinese Embassy in Australia issued a shore statement in response to Dutton’s speech.

“In his NPC speech, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton continued preaching his quixotic misunderstanding of China’s foreign policy, distorting China’s efforts to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity, misguiding the Australian people on regional situations and priorities, and fanning conflict and division between peoples and nations,” the Chinese embassy said. “It is inconceivable that China-Australia relationship will take on a good momentum or the overall interest of regional countries, including that of Australia, will be better promoted if the Australian Government bases its national strategy on such visionless analysis and outdated mentality.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense during a Thursday press conference said China attaches great importance to the development of relations between the American and Chinese militaries and is willing to maintain exchanges and cooperation with the U.S.

Col. Wu Qian noted that “for a period of time, the US has said a lot of irresponsible things and done a lot of provocative things on Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the arrival of warships and planes for reconnaissance, etc., for which China naturally has to fight tit-for-tat and resolutely. We have said many times that China has principles for the development of relations between the two militaries, that is, China’s sovereignty, dignity, and core interests cannot be violated. Especially on the Taiwan issue, China has no room for compromise, and the US should not have any illusions.”

USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) steams near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on July 14, 2020. US Navy Photo

When asked to comment on U.S. Navy Secretary of the Navy’s Carlos Del Toro’s remarks about China being a primary threat and U.S. media reports about China building targets resembling U.S Navy ships, Col. Wu said: “People who are addicted to and chasing hegemony always feel that others are coveting their hegemony. For a long time, some people in the United States have been immersed in ‘persecution delusions’ and cannot extricate themselves, insisting on fabricating a non-existent ‘Chinese military threat.’ Their purpose is nothing more than to find excuses for themselves to seek absolute superiority in the military field and maintain global hegemony.” The Chinese military has always opposed such characterizations, he added, and that in regard to “the so-called missile target issue, we ask the US to seriously reflect on itself before blaming China.”

USNI News reported earlier this month that China appeared to be building missile targets shaped like U.S. aircraft carriers and other American warships in the Taklamakan desert.

As for the underwater collision involving USS Connecticut (SSN-22), which hit an unidentified seamount in early October in the South China Sea, Col. Wu said the U.S. needs to clarify three questions – namely what was the intention of the submarine’s navigation in the area, where was the specific location of the incident and whether the accident caused nuclear leakage and marine environmental pollution. He said China believes that the root cause of the accident was the large-scale, high-frequency approach, the reconnaissance, interference, provocation and military activities of U.S. warships in the Asia-Pacific region, and the militarization and navigational hegemony of the South China Sea.

“We ask the US to stop such activities immediately,” he said.

After the incident, a U.S. Navy spokesman in October said the submarine’s nuclear propulsion plant was not damaged in the collision.

“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition. USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational. The extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed. The U.S. Navy has not requested assistance. The incident will be investigated,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Bill Clinton said in a statement at the time.

Australia Needs Asymmetric Capabilities to Counter China in Indo-Pacific, Former Australian Official Says

Australian political leaders have refocused Canberra’s attention on developing more asymmetric capabilities necessary to fighting a war far from its shores against “high-end competitor” China, a former senior national security adviser to its foreign minister said Tuesday. John Lee, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, described the security situation regarding Taiwan and in […]

Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) executes a live missile firing off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) on Aug. 25, 2020. RAN Photo

Australian political leaders have refocused Canberra’s attention on developing more asymmetric capabilities necessary to fighting a war far from its shores against “high-end competitor” China, a former senior national security adviser to its foreign minister said Tuesday.

John Lee, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, described the security situation regarding Taiwan and in northeast Asia “a lot bleaker” than they were five years ago when, for the first time, maritime concerns dominated an Australian defense white paper.

He added it was “not unrealistic to have a conflict” over self-governing Taiwan in five or six years and any war there would not be confined to the island. China regards the island as a province and has been escalating tensions over its future to include threats of invasion.

Later, Lee said that China, despite its air and immediate naval superiority over Taiwan, “can’t land troops there at an acceptable cost” right now.

By 2020, the Australian government recognized the need to “acquire capabilities to shape and deter” events far from its shores. Adding impetus to the drive to look at national security through a new lens was the increasingly icy relations between Canberra and Beijing over high tariffs and embargoing goods. That same year, the Chinese embassy also presented the Australians with 14 grievances. They ranged from Australia’s anger over how Beijing handled the pandemic to banning telecommunications giant Huawei from its domestic 5G market, to Canberra’s closer military relations with Japan.

Australians in government and the general public were repulsed by the threats “of explicitly punishing [Australia] for your actions.” Lee said nine of the 14 points concerned domestic decisions.

Lee said this was the decision-making framework that led Australia to seek an agreement with the United States and United Kingdom to build nuclear-powered submarines and, more importantly to Canberra, share advanced technologies ranging from cyber to artificial intelligence to unmanned, undersea warfare and hypersonics.

Asymmetric capabilities like unmanned and undersea technologies could be available within a few years. The submarines will take decades to build.

“We’re not in the same league as the Americans and Chinese” when it comes to high-end warfare, but Australia can be an “asymmetric power” to confound Beijing’s planning, Lee said. China has invested heavily in anti-access/area denial technologies to keep the U.S. and its allies at bay in a conflict.

The Chinese “for 30 years have messed up American thinking” on operating freely in the Indo-Pacific region, Lee said, noting Australia can play that role of upending Beijing’s military planning with advanced asymmetric capabilities from drones to undersea technologies.

With that in place, Lee said the Australian government’s existing contract with France to buy diesel-electric submarines and its own existing fleet that could only “operate around our periphery” would not address China’s ambitions to dominate the Indo-Pacific.

“Leasing has to be an option” to fill the timeline gap in undersea readiness, but the submarine does not necessarily have to be an American Virginia-class boat. “We need to learn how to operate them” and maintain them, he said.

Bryan Clark, the Hudson Institute event’s moderator, said another option could be having Australian submarine crews enter the American training pipeline to build a cadre of operators for the future. “Shipyards are backed up” with necessary nuclear maintenance work on existing U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines and would have little time to overhaul vessels destined for Australia.

Upending Beijing’s thinking on security is critical, Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said in describing “the long cool war” between China and the democracies. For years, the Chinese have been “interested in breaking up alliances [like those with Australia, Japan and South Korea] and getting into our [United States’ and allies’] minds.”

“We need to work with our other allies [to build trust], so they don’t go their own ways,” he said. An example of that could be coming from South Korea, which wants to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and also wants to be able to enrich uranium for use in civilian power generation.

As for the U.S., that means “we’re really going to have to take more risks” in collaboration with allies in technology transfer. Washington needs to be “thinking much more clearly on things that matter” when deciding what technology it won’t share, rather than automatically pulling down security concerns to block deals that could benefit both parties.

“We need another AUKUS” for allies, “but not submarines,” Sokolski said. Specifically, he suggested closer cooperation between the European Space Agency, the U.K., Japan and the U.S. to “know what’s going on in space” and also among the democracies with Japan on advanced computing where “it is far ahead of us.”

If steps like those were taken, he said they would “Make AUKUS Great Again.”

AUKUS Agreement Shows Recognition of China’s Military Power, Expert Says

Australia has become “something of a test case” in China’s push to dominate the Indo-Pacific economically and militarily, the head of Australia’s National Security College said Monday. Rory Medcalf, speaking at a Center for New American Security Forum, said “what we’ve seen in Australia the last five or six years [became] a wake-up call” of […]

A naval soldier of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) views through a pair of binoculars onboard China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning as it visits a military harbour on the South China Sea. Xinhua Photo

Australia has become “something of a test case” in China’s push to dominate the Indo-Pacific economically and militarily, the head of Australia’s National Security College said Monday.

Rory Medcalf, speaking at a Center for New American Security Forum, said “what we’ve seen in Australia the last five or six years [became] a wake-up call” of Beijing trying to impose “a veto over the sovereignty of nations.”

He termed the technology sharing agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUKUS, and building Canberra’s first nuclear-powered submarines, “as a recognition of the challenge from China.” He said this step by the Biden administration goes beyond Washington’s treaty with Canberra or its existing sharing of military intelligence as a positive recognition “of the trajectory of Chinese military power.”

Later, Medcalf said “the risks to this region [from China] are not going to be over in five or six years.”

Medcalf said the agreement also recognizes the economic dimension of the competition with Beijing, as China pushes its own trading arrangement for the region and Belt and Road initiative into Africa and Europe.

“We want to see more” from AUKUS than nuclear-powered submarines, Medcalf said. “The early signs are good” on sharing advanced technologies like artificial intelligence. Medcalf made these remarks as the nations formally signed the agreement to build the nuclear-powered submarines. He added that he did not expect any change in Australia’s commitment to the agreement, its participation in the informal Quad security arrangement or support of Taiwan “short of war” following Australia’s federal elections this spring, no matter which party wins.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison leads the Liberal/National Party coalition, which is being challenged by the Australian Labor Party.

“The hard work now lies with us and the Brits” into turning the agreement into reality, Medcalf said.

While Canberra is weathering the storm of Beijing’s high tariffs on Australian products from wine to coal and trade embargoes, Medcalf added that the situation would be “much more unpleasant for smaller nations closer to China.” Beijing has also tried to influence Australian elections through bribery and by targeting the large Chinese diaspora through extensive disinformation campaigns.

The latest Chinese moves against Australia came after Canberra kept insisting on transparency from Beijing about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking back historically, Medcalf, the author of Indo-Pacific Empire: China, America and the Contest for the World’s Pivotal Region, said “China seems to have trapped itself in this imperialism” mode by becoming more authoritarian domestically and with its aggressive behavior abroad.

He added that President Xi Jinping’s leadership could be leading China to “imperial overreach,” creating friction points far from its immediate national interests. Medcalf questioned whether the Chinese Communist Party’s model under Xi would work in other nations, since it lacks a succession plan and China has a future where it also will be coping with an aging demographic demanding more services.

Medcalf cited Beijing’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in refusing to be transparent about its origins as “a depressing example” of how China works internationally. “The pandemic has been a really troubling” time in trying to build cooperation with China on an issue of importance globally with little positive reaction in Beijing to work together.

Lisa Curtis, the director of CNAS’s Indo-Pacific security program, said during the panel discussion following Medcalf’s presentation that China “is not helping their case in pursuing this aggressive” behavior in the East China and South China seas and Taiwan Strait, as pandemic recovery is underway.

When asked what role Europe can play in the Indo-Pacific, Medcalf said “it’s not going to be ships in the water,” referring to the U.K. Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group’s recent deployment and growing French and German naval presence in the region. He argued Europe must pay attention to governance, infrastructure, connectivity and development and working with Japan, India and the the U.S. in these areas.

He also saw the Quad – the informal security agreement between the U.S., Australia, India and Japan – that could possibly see other Indo-Pacific nations joining the arrangement as forging technology standards, agreeing on 5G communications and developing alternative supply chains.

Michael Green, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for Asia and Japan, said these navies’ actions demonstrate “will power” and that Europeans “are not afraid to show the flag.”

He added this also is a signal to China that Beijing can’t count on Europe remaining aloof from a crisis in the Indo-Pacific.

As the session was nearing an end, Medcalf described the dispute with France over the cancellation of Australia’s contract with Paris to building diesel submarines as “a family feud. We all need to grow out of it as fast as possible.”

Australia needs “to find other common grounds with the French and other Europeans,” he said.

U.S. Begins Exercise Off Japan with Canadian, German and Australian Navies

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States are conducting naval drills in the Philippine Sea off the southern coast of Japan for the next week. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force exercise, known as ANNUALEX 2021, began on Sunday and will continue through Nov. 30. The exercise is a yearly naval training […]

Fifteen ships from the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, German Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and U.S. Navy sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States are conducting naval drills in the Philippine Sea off the southern coast of Japan for the next week.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force exercise, known as ANNUALEX 2021, began on Sunday and will continue through Nov. 30. The exercise is a yearly naval training event led by the JMSDF, with navies from other countries invited to participate in the event. This year’s iteration marks the first time the German Navy is taking part in these drills.

The exercise will “include enhanced maritime communication tactics, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction maneuvers,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

The Chief of the German Navy, Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach, reiterated in the release his earlier announcement about a regular German Navy deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

“The German navy will strengthen its commitment to the region through deeper security and defense cooperation with regional partners,” Schönbach said in the news release. “Germany would seek to send a frigate every two years to the Indo-Pacific region with a supply ship.”

German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) is currently on a deployment to the region and participating in the ANNUALEX 2021 exercise. It remains to be seen, however, if the incoming German coalition government that is about to form will support and commit to a regular German naval deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

The U.S. is participating with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106), replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and an unnamed Los Angeles-class submarine.

“ANNUALEX presents an opportunity to strategically coordinate, collaborate and further strengthen our network of partnerships and alliances, enabling us to remain a flexible, adaptable and persistent combined force capable of quickly projecting power, where and when needed,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, said in the release.

Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg’s (FFH338) participation in the exercise is its last major engagement for its presence deployment in the region before the ship sails for home. The Royal Australian Navy is participating with destroyer HMAS Brisbane (D41) and frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152). Prior to the exercise, Warramunga and Bayern were on separate monitoring and surveillance patrols in the East China Sea in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Asagiri-class destroyer JS Yamagiri (DD 152), left, JMSDF Asahi-class destroyer JS Asahi (DD 119), and JMSDF Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

JMSDF units taking part in the exercise include helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183), destroyers JS Inazuma (DD-105), JS Harusame (DD-102), JS Onami (DD-111), JS Teruzuki (DD-116), JS Asahi (DD-119), JS Yamagiri (DD-152), JS Kirishima (DDG-174), JS Chokai (DDG-176) and a JMSDF submarine.

“Many naval forces (United States, Australia, Canada and firstly Germany) will join this JMSDF exercise. I’m very proud to participate in the exercise as a commander of surface forces,” Rear Adm. Komuta Shukaku, the commander of Escort Flotilla 1, said in the 7th Fleet release. “We will strengthen the cooperation among those navies through this high-end tactical exercise.”

In other developments, Malaysia and the U.S. began Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021 virtually and in the waters and airspace of the Strait of Malacca on Tuesday. The exercise, according to a separate 7th Fleet news release, will take place across eight days and emphasize “the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of the U.S. and Malaysia to work together toward the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. Navy will participate with Littoral Combat Ship USS Tulsa (LCS-16) and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft from CTF 72. The Royal Malaysian Navy is expected to deploy frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30) and corvette KD Lekir (FSG26) for the drills.

“Our commitment to dedicating resources in exercises is a testament to our innate belief in the power of sharing responsibility in ensuring regional security,” Rear Adm. Chris Engdahlb, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, said in the release. “MTA Malaysia 2021 represents another step forward.”

The at-sea portion of the exercise will feature training for “divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuver,” 7th Fleet said.
“Other focus areas include surface warfare, mobile dive and salvage training, replenishment-at-sea, a gunnery exercise, and exchanges between Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians.”

Malaysia and the U.S. will also participate in exchange engagements for subject matter experts to drill for multiple missions ranging from diving and salvage to maritime law and law enforcement, according to 7th Fleet.

“The intergovernmental organization personnel from the European Union’s Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific (EU-CRIMARIO) initiative will provide subject matter expertise aimed to aid in understanding of the operational environment, and 7th Fleet desires to continue this approach in future iterations,” 7th Fleet said.

MTA Malaysia is part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. The U.S. already completed the Indonesia and Brunei phases of the series earlier this month. MTA Malaysia has resumed with safety mitigation measures after being cancelled in 2020 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Russia announced the first-ever Russia-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) naval exercise, which will kick off on Dec. 1. The Russian Mission to ASEAN announced the news on Tuesday in a social media post.

Destroyer Admiral Panteleyev (548) will represent Russia in the exercise, which will continue through Dec. 3 in Indonesian territorial waters off the coast of North Sumatera. ASEAN nations have yet to release which of their naval ships will participate. This exercise will make Russia the third country, after China and the U.S., to hold naval exercises with the regional body. China conducted exercises with ASEAN in 2018 and 2019, while the U.S. conducted one in 2019. Additional exercises have not been carried out since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia Signs Nuclear Propulsion Sharing Agreement with U.K., U.S.

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia signed the agreement to share nuclear propulsion information with the United States and the United Kingdom on Monday, marking the initial steps towards the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet with the assistance of the U.K. and U.S. The Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement, or ENNPIA, is a key […]

(l-r) Minister for Defence the Hon Peter Dutton MP, United States Chargé d’Affaires Michael Goldman and British High Commissioner Victoria Treadell CMG, MVO, prior to the signing of the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement at Parliament House in Canberra. Australian MoD Image

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia signed the agreement to share nuclear propulsion information with the United States and the United Kingdom on Monday, marking the initial steps towards the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet with the assistance of the U.K. and U.S.

The Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement, or ENNPIA, is a key part of the new AUKUS pact, which stands for the three partners nations – Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.

President Joe Biden signed a memorandum on Friday that approved the arrangement.

“The Agreement will permit cooperation, which will further improve our mutual defense posture and support our interests under the North Atlantic Treaty; the Australia, New Zealand, and United States Security Treaty; and the enhanced trilateral security partnership among the three Parties known as ‘AUKUS,'” Biden said in the memo.

The U.K. had yet to issue a formal statement on the agreement as of press time.

In an Australian Department of Defence news release issued Monday, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said the ENNPIA will further advance consultations by permitting the U.K. and the U.S. to exchange sensitive and classified naval nuclear propulsion information with a third country for the first time.

“This Agreement will support Australia in completing the 18 months of intensive and comprehensive examination of the requirements underpinning the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines,” Dutton said.

Dutton stressed that Australia was not seeking nuclear weapons and that the submarines will be conventionally armed, adding that the agreement is consistent with Australia’s international obligations, including under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. He also said the ENNPIA only allows for the sharing of naval nuclear propulsion information and that no nuclear equipment can be transferred under it.

“Each Party may communicate to or exchange with the other Parties naval nuclear propulsion information as is determined to be necessary to research, develop, design, manufacture, operate, regulate, and dispose of military reactors, and may provide support to facilitate such communication or exchange, to the extent and by such means as may be mutually agreed,” Article II of the ENNPIA states.

The National Interest Analysis on the ENNPIA, a document that details the reason why the Australian government sees the treaty as beneficial to Australia, said the ENNPIA is only intended to facilitate the sharing of naval nuclear propulsion information. A subsequent agreement would need to be negotiated to support transfers of equipment, materials or technology related to nuclear naval propulsion. Following the 18 month AUKUS consultation period, – and once the requirements and commitments related to nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy are understood and evaluated – such an agreement would be negotiated and be subject to Australia’s domestic treaty-making requirements, including tabling in Parliament and consideration by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT).

Under Australia’s Parliamentary process, treaties are tabled in both Houses of Parliament for consideration by JSCOT and are required to be tabled for 15 or 20 joint sitting days, or days on which both Houses of Parliament are in session, depending on the category of the treaty. A National Interest Analysis is issued by the government as part of this process, outlining the government’s reasons on why the treaty is beneficial to Australia.

For the ENNPIA, the Department of Defence’s International Policy and Agreements and the Nuclear Powered Submarine Task Force prepared the National Interest Analysis. JSCOT holds public hearings and subsequently presents a report to Parliament containing advice on whether Australia should ratify the treaty, though the government does not have to follow the advice of the Committee.

The ENNPIA also includes a security annex laying down the procedures for the information that will be shared and exchanged under it, with Section 1a stating that “no individual shall be entitled to access naval nuclear propulsion information solely by virtue of rank, appointment, or security clearance. Access to naval nuclear propulsion information shall be afforded only to those individuals whose official duties require such access and who have been cleared by the Party providing such access.”

Meanwhile, section 1F states that each clearance for access will be periodically reviewed, along with reexamination on a priority basis should new information come to light that indicates clearance to an individual presents a security risk. Section 1G states that effective liaison is to be maintained between the national agencies responsible for national security and the agencies responsible for the clearance determination and program execution to ensure prompt notification of any information with implications to previously granted clearances.

Australia’s pursuit of nuclear-powered submarines and the new pact with the U.S. and the U.K. comes as countries in the Indo-Pacific region seek ways to hedge against China.

Australia Ambassador to U.S. Says AUKUS Deal Will ‘Project Power Further Up’ Through Indo-Pacific

The key reason Australia entered into a new security agreement with the United States and United Kingdom that includes building nuclear-powered submarines is “to project power further up” from the homeland, Canberra’s ambassador to Washington said Tuesday. Arthur Simonides, speaking in a Hudson Institute forum, said Australia was also looking at new ways of shaping […]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with HMAS Sirius (O 266) while Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain Sailors watch onward during a bilateral exercise with Royal Australian Navy HMAS Ballarat Strike Group, Oct. 10, 2021. US Navy Photo

The key reason Australia entered into a new security agreement with the United States and United Kingdom that includes building nuclear-powered submarines is “to project power further up” from the homeland, Canberra’s ambassador to Washington said Tuesday.

Arthur Simonides, speaking in a Hudson Institute forum, said Australia was also looking at new ways of shaping the security environment in the Indo-Pacific and for a deterrent against China when acting with allies. He noted Canberra is spending nearly 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product on modernizing its security forces.

He said the three countries reached the September agreement, known as AUKUS, not because Australia feared an “imminent attack” from China, but because of Canberra’s commitment to the rules-based order that has marked post-World War II international relations.

Saying at one point that he didn’t believe the U.S. or western nations were in decline, Simonides said rising powers like China need to understand they “cannot just throw your weight around” to get their way in disputes with lesser nations. He added that democracies like Australia “should preserve [and] protect the sovereignty of all states in the region.”

Simonides praised the Biden administration for realizing the U.S. “cannot do it alone” in deterring Chinese ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. In Australia’s view, AUKUS “complements all the other arrangements” that Canberra has. Among those arrangements, he named the “Five Eyes” military intelligence sharing between New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and U.K. He said this sharing “has proven to be very valuable” to all members since World War II. He added it continues to build greater cooperation in other areas of security and defense and enhances the interoperability of their armed forces.

On the nuclear-powered submarine aspect of the treaty, he said Canberra is committed to “what’s best for Australia” be it based on an American or British design, with the goal of building the boats in south Australia.

He compared the next year to 18 months as Lego-building as the project moves forward. This includes examining the available workforce, shipyard capacity and understanding that Australia is entering this “without having a civil nuclear engineering” force on hand.

“So watch this space,” Simonides said.

The nuclear-powered submarine, because of its extended range and lethality, “is the most important priority” for Canberra under AUKUS. Simonides added that over the time it takes to settle on the nuclear-powered submarine design and the decade of construction, Australia will overhaul and modernize its six diesel-electric Collins-class boats.

To Australians, “AUKUS is a mechanism” where its advances in cyber, artificial intelligence and quantum computing can be “brought to the table” with allies. Using cyber as the example, Simonides said the three nations should be asking themselves “what are the exact priorities” they want in this domain and how each nation’s work can complement that of others. “What are the Brits doing; what is the U.S. doing,” he asked rhetorically, calling it “a process of discovery.”

As for future relations with Beijing, Simonides said, “we don’t want to be just frozen” in a retaliatory trade war with China. Australia “wants to normalize relations,” he said. China this year imposed high tariffs on Australian imports and an embargo on goods from coal to wine to steel in retaliation for Canberra pressing Beijing on the origin of the COVID-19 virus.

He added Australia’s earlier moves controlling who is granted 5G rights to its telecommunications network and cracking down on Chinese attempts to influence national politics were examples of Canberra “seeking to stand up and protect our sovereignty.”

“We can’t take a step backwards,” Simonides said.

China accounts for about 40 percent of Australia’s goods’ exports.

Simonides said, “we want the WTO [World Trade Organization] to be as strong as possible to enforce the rules” of open markets and transparency.