The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are signing a new defense pact to contain China’s military might in the Indo-Pacific.
The treaty, dubbed AUKUS after the three-nation initials, does not include Canada, raising the possibility that Ottawa may miss out on intelligence sharing among some of its closest allies.
The deal would allow countries to share more military technologies and information than they currently do, some of which pertain to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber capabilities. AUKUS’s first project would be to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
“We have always believed in a world that supports freedom, that respects human dignity, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states and the peaceful fellowship of nations,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who The deal was unveiled in a video-link press conference with President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday afternoon.
The three countries already share foreign intelligence through the Five Eyes partnership, along with Canada and New Zealand. It was not immediately clear whether the new alliance would serve purely as a vehicle for Australia to engage in additional defense projects with other countries, or if the agreement would end some of the Five Eyes’ work.
The US has repeatedly warned that it will stop sharing intelligence with countries that are not tough enough on China.
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A Canadian official said that AUKUS was only about helping Australia build submarines and that as a result Canada would receive no less intelligence from other countries. The Granthshala is not taking the official’s name because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan’s spokesman Daniel Minden said Ottawa was kept in the loop over talks between the AUKUS countries. Mr Sajjan spoke with his British and Australian counterparts on Wednesday, Mr Minden said, and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau spoke with Foreign Minister Antony Blinken.
“Canada continues to work with our Five Eyes partners on defense technology and research to strengthen our partnership. We will continue to build on existing collaborations with our partners,” Mr. Minden wrote in an email.
Eric Miller, a political and business adviser specializing in Canada-US affairs, said the agreement represents an alliance between countries that are more willing than Canada to take on China. He said the agreement could represent a “three eyes” subset of the larger partnership.
“The people who are in the world ‘we need to face China directly, and use all of our assets and resources to do that,’ – they are essentially moving forward,” he said.
For example, Canada is one of only five eyes that has not banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G network. Intelligence experts fear the Chinese firm could use such access to collect sensitive information and hand it over to Beijing’s spy agencies.
Both the US and Australia are currently locked in a trade war with China. Canberra is feuding with Beijing over Australian demands for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Britain is in a diplomatic dispute over China’s sanctions of British legislators for criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. In response, the British Parliament barred the Chinese ambassador from attending an event.
Washington first threatened to cut off Canada from sharing intelligence in 2019 unless Ottawa took action on Huawei. Mike Pompeo, who was then secretary of state, told Fox Business that “we will not be able to share information” or “work together” in countries that allow Huawei in their 5G networks.
The Canadian government has been saying for three years that it has been trying to decide what to do about Huawei. Ottawa still hasn’t come to a decision.
Mr Miller said at least some of the stalling is to downplay Chinese retaliation against Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadian nationals arrested in China after Ottawa served US arrest warrants on Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, Mr Miller said. said. Canada is also reluctant to jeopardize business interests in China, which include export markets for canola, pork and seafood.
“Canada hasn’t really chosen where it stands on China. For a long time, the attitude has been, ‘We will focus on economic ties with China, and security ties with the US will remain unaffected,'” Mr. Miller said. “Canada must now choose between its economic interests and security interests.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office would not respond to questions about AUKUS, including whether it was involved in discussions on the agreement, or whether it had asked to join or wanted to join in the future. Mr Trudeau’s spokesman, Alex Wellstead, referred the government’s foreign affairs department. The department did not respond to the questions by the deadline.
For now, AUKUS leaders said, their focus is on submarines. Nuclear-powered submarines will allow Australia to patrol longer, stealthily, as they do not need to surface as often as conventional submarines. The new subs would use nuclear power, but would not be equipped with nuclear weapons.
“The future of each of our nations, and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Mr Biden said. “It’s about investing in and updating our alliances – our biggest source of strength.”
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