Former Australian leader says submarine deal protects US | World news

By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia’s agreement to acquire submarines powered by US nuclear technology aimed to protect the United States from a Chinese nuclear attack and had changed Australia-China relations. sino, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said on Wednesday.

Keating, who led a center-left Labor Party government from 1991 to 1996, told the National Press Club that Australia’s current Conservative government had treated France “appallingly” in September when it canceled A 90 billion Australian dollars (66 million dollars) contract to build an Australian factory. fleet of 12 diesel-electric submarines.

Instead, Australia will acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines using American technology as part of a new alliance with the United States and Britain.

Keating expected Australian submarines to be based on the design of the American Virginia class rather than the smaller version of the British Astute class.

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“Eight submarines against China, when we get the submarine in 20 years, it will be like throwing a handful of toothpicks on a mountain,” Keating said.

Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines are said to be designed to contain Chinese nuclear submarines in the shallow waters near China’s coast, Keating said.

“In other words, preventing the Chinese from having a nuclear second-strike capability against the United States,” Keating said. “It changes our relationship” with China.

Keating sits on the advisory board of the China Development Bank, a public institution that raises funds for large infrastructure projects. His critics have described him as an apologist for Beijing, which has had an icy relationship with Australia in recent years.

Keating served as Minister and then Prime Minister of a Labor government that built the first of Australia’s six Collins-class submarines, which were launched between 1990 and 2003.

France reacted angrily when Australia abandoned the contract with the majority state-owned Naval Group.

The French won the contract in 2016 with a conventionally powered submarine project based on a design of a Shortfin Barracuda class nuclear submarine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government made the switch because a conventional submarine would no longer meet Australia’s changing security needs.

Keating said the French could have provided a more modern nuclear-powered submarine than the Virginia-class, which was based on technology from the 1990s.

“If we were upset that we were having a hard time trying to cram a diesel engine into the hull of a French nuclear submarine, why didn’t we at least investigate their most modern nuclear submarine? ? Keating asked.

Australian Ambassador to Washington Arthur Sinodinos told the Hudson Institute, a conservative US think tank, this week that the new submarines would allow Australia to “project power” but should not be seen as a threat to China, the Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday. .

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