Australian Prime Minister Confident US Will Deliver Nuclear-Powered Submarines

Australian Prime Minister Confident US Will Deliver Nuclear-Powered Submarines

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Friday he was confident of securing bipartisan political support in the United States for a deal to provide his country with submarines powered by U.S. nuclear technology.

The so-called AUKUS partnership — an acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — is being discussed by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in meetings with Albanese and other Australian officials in Brisbane on Friday and Saturday.

Under the deal, Australia will buy three Virginia-class submarines from the United States and build five of a new AUKUS-class submarine in cooperation with Britain.

Australian media have focused on a letter signed by more than 20 Republican lawmakers to President Joe Biden that warned the deal would “unacceptably weaken the U.S. fleet” without a plan to boost U.S. submarine production.

Albanese said he remained “very confident” that the United States would deliver the three submarines.

Albanese said he had been reassured by discussions he had with Republicans and Democrats at a NATO summit in Lithuanian this month.

“What struck me was their unanimous support for AUKUS, their unanimous support for the relationship between the Australia and United States. It has never been stronger,” Albanese told reporters in Brisbane.

Austin and Blinken arrived in Brisbane late Thursday ahead of annual bilateral meetings with their Australian counterparts, Defense Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

Marles said the AUKUS program was “on track.”

“Congress can be a complicated place as legislation makes its way through it, but actually we’re encouraged by how quickly it is going through it and we are expecting that there will be lots of discussions on the way through,” Marles told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“Fundamentally, we have reached an agreement with the Biden administration about how Australia acquires the nuclear-powered submarine capability and we’re proceeding along that path with pace,” he added.

Australia understood there was “pressure on the American industrial base” and would contribute to submarine production, Marles said. The AUKUS deal is forecast to cost Australia up to 368 billion Australian dollars ($246 billion) over 30 years.

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