PUBLISHED: 16:29 BST, 16 September 2021 | UPDATED: 16:59 BST, 16 September 2021
- Scott Morrison agreed deal to acquire nuclear submarine technology from US and UK at Cornwall G7 summit
- Three leaders met on the sidelines during summit’s last day when they put pen to paper on AUKUS pact
- Australia will now get hold of at least eight nuclear submarines, counter-balancing China’s growing power
- Alliance will also share other military technologies in one of the most significant deals signed in decades
This is the moment that Australia, the UK and the US put pen to paper on their new military alliance as Scott Morrison, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson met on the sidelines of June’s G7 summit in Cornwall.
It was the culmination of an 18-month plan devised by Mr Morrison to acquire his country’s first nuclear-powered submarines, allowing Australia to push back against an increasingly aggressive China.
The plot is thought to have been hatched in early 2020 when Mr Morrison asked a team of scientists, Navy top brass, engineers and other experts to look again at a deal Australia had signed with with France to buy 12 diesel-powered subs and to see whether better options existed.
Ultimately, the task force concluded that going nuclear – an option that Australia has long-resisted because it lacks a domestic nuclear industry and is committed to nuclear non-proliferation – would be a better option than paying France $90billion for its vessels, after the cost ballooned from the $50billion they first agreed on.
In late 2020, Mr Morrison instructed his defence chiefs to begin ‘engaging the systems’ by briefing the UK and the US on his plans, according to a source who spoke with the Sydney Morning Herald, leading to a conversation with Boris Johnson in May this year.
Mr Johnson agreed to set up talks with Joe Biden at the G7 a few weeks later, with the trio finally meeting on June 13 – the final day of the summit. It was during this meeting that Biden agreed for the first time in more than 50 years to share the secrets of America’s nuclear submarines with a third country. Britain is the only other nation to have acquired such technology.
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