Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating says the nation's agreement to buy and develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in cooperation with Britain and the United States is "the worst deal in all history."
Keating attacked the three-nation agreement between Australia, Britain and the United States Wednesday during a speech at the National Press Club in Sydney.
The multi-decade deal, which could cost Australia as much as $245 billion, was announced Monday by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, British counterpart Rishi Sunak and U.S. President Joe Biden in San Diego under a new trilateral defense partnership known by the acronym AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States).
The agreement will see American and British nuclear-powered submarines rotating into Australian waters as soon as 2027. By the early 2030s, Australia will buy at least three - and as many as five - U.S.-built nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarines designed to hunt and attack other subs. And the three nations will work together to develop a new nuclear attack submarine - a project that could take two decades.
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Keating dismissed the idea that China poses a military threat to Australia, and said it was "rubbish" that a small fleet of nuclear-powered submarines could defend the country from a Chinese naval fleet. He said Australia could simply sink the fleet "with planes and missiles."
China Condemns Trilateral AUKUS Nuclear-Powered Submarine Deal
The former prime minister, who served in the post from 1991 to 1996, said the nuclear submarine deal is the worst international decision made by a Labor Party government since World War I, when it failed to impose compulsory military service.
In addition to the new submarine fleet, the AUKUS partnership will allow the three countries to share information and expertise more easily in key technological areas such artificial intelligence, cybertechnology, quantum technologies, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.