Down Under, Shoring Up

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Australia will build a new naval base on its east coast that could welcome United States nuclear submarines, a move aimed at countering China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific region, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country is setting aside $7.4 billion for facilities and infrastructure to accommodate new submarines, including some new nuclear ones Australia is expected to acquire in the coming decades through the AUKUS military partnership with the US and Britain.

Morrison noted that the new base will “enhance our strategic deterrent capability,” adding that the existing naval facilities in Western Australia will continue to operate.

The announcement comes a few months before Australians prepare to head to the polls to elect a new government. Morrison’s popularity has dipped and the center-right leader has been trying to portray himself as tough on national security.

The prime minister has taken a strong stance against China, brought Australia closer to its traditional allies and strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The submarine base plans follow concerns over China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific, which has prompted the US to make Australia more central to its strategy to counter Beijing.

Apart from sharing nuclear-submarine technology, the AUKUS partnership also includes security cooperation in cyberspace, artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities.

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