US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has declared his country has taken a “big bet” on the Australian-US alliance by promising to share nuclear submarine technology under the AUKUS deal.
Speaking at the 2021 Lowy Institute Lecture on Thursday, Mr Sullivan said the AUKUS deal proved Joe Biden’s commitment to strengthening America’s relationship with its closest allies.
“It is a big bet. The President wanted to say not just to Australia, but to the world, that if you are a strong friend and ally and partner, and you bet with us, we will bet with you,” he said.
“And we will bet with you with the most advanced, most sensitive technology we have. Because we trust you, we believe in you.”
Australia, the UK and US have set an 18-month target to finetune the details on pact to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
But the deal has been shrouded in controversy after France reacted furiously to news of the trilateral agreement, revealing the Australian government had ditched a $90 billion submarine contract with France to pursue the AUKUS pact instead.
President Biden later apologised to French leader Emmanuel Macron for the blunder, admitting the handling of the AUKUS announcement was “clumsy” and insisting he did not know France had not been given advance notice of the decision.
While there were murmurs Mr Biden’s comments were a dig at Scott Morrison, the US National Security Adviser would not take the bait when questioned about the interaction on Thursday.
“My view – I know it comes off as a sincere dodge, but a dodge nonetheless – is that I just think there’s no profit in revisiting how we got to where we are,” Mr Sullivan said.
“We’ve put out, in our view, a very strong and meaningful and substantive plan of action with the French on a range of issues, including relating to the Indo-Pacific. And, we’re digging in on the real work of AUKUS.”
Mr Sullivan said the US was set on helping Australia acquire its first nuclear submarines, in a deal he insisted would continue “literally for decades to come”.
“We are deeply committed now to doing the actual work to make this happen in a way that delivers on the vision that our leaders laid out when they did the virtual event together back in September,” he said.
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