CANBERA, Australia (AP) – Australia’s deal to acquire submarines powered by US nuclear technology was intended to protect the United States from a Chinese nuclear attack and changed Australia-China relations, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said. said on Wednesday.
Keating, who led the centre-left Labor Party government from 1991 to 1996, told the National Press Club that Australia’s current Conservative government treated France “horribly” in September when it pledged 90 billion Australian dollars to create an Australian government. ($66 billion) contract was cancelled. Fleet of 12 diesel-electric submarines.
Instead, Australia will acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines using American technology under a new alliance with the United States and Britain.
Keating expected the Australian submarines to be based on the US Virginia-class design rather than the smaller British Astute-class version.
“Eight submarines against China, when we get a submarine in 20 years, it will be like throwing a handful of toothpicks up a mountain,” Keating said.
Keating said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would be designed to contain Chinese nuclear-armed submarines in shallow waters off the coast of China.
“In other words, to deter the Chinese possessing nuclear capability of a second attack against the United States,” Keating said. “It changes our relationship” with China.
Keating sits on an advisory board of the Development Bank of China, a state-owned organization that raises funds for large infrastructure projects. His critics have described him as apologetic to Beijing, which has had a frosty relationship with Australia in recent years.
Keating was a cabinet minister, prime minister in a Labor government, who built the first of Australia’s six Collins-class submarines, which were launched between 1990 and 2003.
France reacted angrily to the cancellation of the contract with Australia’s majority state-owned naval conglomerate.
The French won a contract in 2016 for a nuclear-powered shortfin Barracuda-class submarine with plans for a conventionally powered submarine based on a design.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government made the change because a conventional submarine would no longer meet Australia’s growing security needs.
Keating said the French could provide a more modern nuclear-powered submarine than the Virginia-class, which was based on 1990s technology.
“If we were unhappy with the fact that we were having trouble stuffing a diesel engine into the hull of a French nuclear submarine, why didn’t we at least inquire about their most modern nuclear submarine?” Keating asked.
Keating also said that Taiwan “was not a significant Australian interest” and that “Australia should not, in my view, be drawn into military engagement over Taiwan, US-sponsored or otherwise.”
Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank, said President Joe Biden would turn to Australia and Japan as the United States’ main allies in the Pacific if China invades Taiwan.
Jennings said, “I think it’s a really dangerous situation for Australian (former) prime ministers to dismiss the importance of democracy for 23 million people in the air, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter to us. “
“Certainly we don’t imagine anyone else commenting about Australia as a democracy of 26 million people. There’s really compelling interest to make the case that democracies need to stick together and that’s Taiwan.” ,” Jennings said.
Jennings said Australia would use its nuclear-powered submarines to protect Australia.
“I don’t think Keating should be taken seriously in the context of his current knowledge of the capabilities of submarines, French or American,” Jennings said.
The Australian ambassador to Washington, Arthur Sinodinos, this week told the Hudson Institute, a conservative US think tank, that the new submarines would enable Australia to “project power” but should not be seen as a threat to China, the Australian said. The newspaper reported on Wednesday. ,
This story is exchange rate corrected.