Australia’s ambassador to America, Arthur Sinodinos, has told a U.S. think tank that joining the AUKUS alliance was about projecting power towards the north and shaping the Indo-Pacific security environment.
Under the communist regime, China’s expansion has changed the power equation in the Indo-Pacific and is challenging what is termed as the rules-based global order, Sinodinos said.
“The challenge is, we’ve had a rules-based order, which has sort of underwritten the peace and prosperity … of the region for the last 70 years,” the Australian diplomat told the Hudson Institute.
“So the question’s always been, as new powers rise up, how do we make sure that they are all part of a global rules-based order?”
Sinodinos said Australia fought alongside America and their allies in the world wars for their shared values, which he said were reflected in the current “global order.”
“So this is really about saying that as circumstances change in the [Indo-Pacific] region, we will do everything we can to uphold those values in a peaceful way. And if deterrence helps that cause, so be it.”
The deterrents he spoke of are the nuclear-powered submarines Australia will acquire under the AUKUS pact with Britain and America.
Sinodinos said these would be built in South Australia, based on either British or American designs.
“We want to be able to, in these deteriorating strategic circumstances, be able to project our power further up, rather than taking an approach that all our defence has to be a defence of the mainland,” Sinodinos said.
But he noted that this wasn’t about seeking a regime change in China.
“This is not about us seeking regime change or anything like that. We just want that respect for our sovereignty,” he said.
“When it comes to China, we don’t want to be just frozen in the current situation. We want to move on. We want to just normalise relations again.”
The AUKUS pact will increase Australia’s capabilities in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber, quantum computing, undersea warfare, Sinodinos said.
The announcement of the trilateral arrangement created controversy when Australia cancelled a $90 billion contract with France’s Naval Group for conventional submarines to opt instead for the U.S. and UK-backed nuclear submarines.