Johnson tells Macron to ‘get a grip’ over Aukus submarine deal
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Britain is set to supply Australia with nuclear submarines as part of an attempt to support the nation in defending against a growing threat from China. Australia is expected to get eight nuclear-powered submarines from both the UK and the US, sources from both countries have said. The UK Government has been in talks with Australia and the US since September 2021, when the Aukus defence partnership was announced.
At the time, French President Emmanuel Macron was enraged when Australia cancelled a $66 billion contract for a French-built fleet of conventionally powered submarines, instead opting for nuclear-powered versions in a deal secretly brokered with the US and Britain as part of the Aukus pact.
While Australia was initially expected to opt for a US-designed submarine, rather than a British one, sources have since said the details of the deal have recently “gone our way”.
The Prime Minister is said to be “delighted” with the outcome of the talks, a senior British minister told the Guardian.
They added: “The deal has definitely gone our way.
“The Prime Minister was buzzing about it when he told ministers, smiling and bouncing on the balls of his feet.”
The first stage of the deal is expected to involve the US supplying Australia with submarines from its own fleet or construction schedule.
The vessels are likely to be jointly crewed and perhaps commanded by US troops, as it will take years for Australia to train enough nuclear-qualified submarine commanders.
Later down the line, the plan would involve the development of a joint Australian-UK boat.
US President Joe Biden is expected to announce the deal at a meeting of Aukus leaders, taking place in the US next week.
Mr Sunak is flying out to San Diego – the home of the US Pacific Fleet – for a meeting on Monday.
This comes amid a growing threat from Russia and China.
The US last month shot down a balloon floating over American airspace, believing it was spying on key military sites across the US.
Ben Wallace admitted that Chinese balloons may have spied on the UK, saying he too would have ordered it to be shot down.
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The US Department of Defence confirmed its fighter jets brought down the balloon over US territorial waters. Footage showed the balloon falling to the sea after a small explosion.
China’s foreign ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft”.
Beijing has strongly denied that the object was being used for spying purposes, and claims it was a weather device blown astray.
However, Washington has said it believes that the balloon from China is part of a wider fleet that has spanned five continents.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “The United States was not the only target of this broader programme.
“We’re not alone in this. We’ve already shared information with dozens of countries around the world both from Washington and through our embassies.
“We’re doing so because the United States was not the only target of this broader programme which has violated the sovereignty of countries across five continents.”
The Secretary of State added the US had shared information gathered from the balloon debris with dozens of other countries.
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