Australia has “absolutely not” given the US any commitment as part of the AUKUS negotiations that it would join its top security ally in a potential war over the status of Taiwan, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said yesterday.
Marles, who is also Australian minister for defence, made the comment while defending Australia’s multi-decade plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, with help from the US and the UK, at a total cost of up to US$368 billion between now and the mid-2050s.
Marles told the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s (ABC) Insiders program that China’s rapid military buildup “shapes the strategic landscape in which we live.”
The AUKUS submarines would back up Australia’s interest in protecting trade and freedom of navigation and flight in the South China Sea, he said.
Marles said he would not speculate about a future conflict over Taiwan, saying that it was “a completely separate question.”
The US is planning to sell Australia at least three, and as many as five, Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s. Canberra is attempting to fill the “capability gap” between the retirement of its diesel-electric Collins-class submarines and the entry into service of British-designed, Australian-built nuclear-powered submarines from the 2040s.
ABC’s David Speers asked Marles whether Australia had explicitly or implicitly given the US a commitment that it would join the ally in the event of a conflict over Taiwan, in return for access to the Virginia-class submarines.
“The answer to that is of course not,” Marles said. “Of course not — and nor was one sought. I’ve listened to that conjecture from a number of commentators. It is plain wrong.”
Marles said that “the moment that there is a flag on the first of those Virginia-class submarines in the early 2030s is the moment that that submarine will be under the complete control of the Australian government of the day.”
He said the nuclear-powered submarines would have “the capacity to operate in the context of war,” but the primary intent was to “make our contribution to the stability of the region, to the collective security of the region.”
Marles was reluctant to name China as a threat to Australia’s shipping lanes, but said that Beijing is “seeking to shape the world around it in a way that we’ve not seen it do prior to the last decade.”
He said that while a lot of Australia’s trade is with China, “all of our trade to Japan, all of our trade to South Korea — two of our top five trading partners — goes through the South China Sea.”
ANTI-SHIP CONFIGURATION: The Tuo Chiang-class vessels are to be built for NT$9.7 billion by Lung Teh, a shipyard that previously built four similar corvettes for the navy The Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday awarded Lung Teh Shipbuilding (龍德造船) a NT$9.7 billion Co (US$317.57 million) contract to build five Tuo Chiang-class corvettes with anti-ship capabilities, a defense official familiar with the matter said yesterday. The corvettes would carry vertical launchers for four Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) missiles, as well as eight Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) anti-ship missiles, in contrast to ships configured for anti-air warfare, which carry eight HF-2 and four HF-3 missiles, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The anti-ship corvettes would be armed for improved standoff range against surface combatants and carry the latest
‘COINCIDENCE’: The former president should keep in mind local and global response to his actions and abide by the law to safeguard national interests, the MAC said The Presidential Office yesterday confirmed that it has received an application from former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to visit China next week and would be discussing his security detail. “As the travel restrictions on former president Ma have expired, we respect his plan to pay respect to his ancestors in China,” Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) said. “We will review his travel plan and consult concerned agencies to assist him in arranging his security detail.” “We also hope that Ma, as a former commander in chief of Taiwan, acts in a manner that aligns with national interests and does not hurt
‘NOTHING NEW’: China should not use Tsai Ing-wen’s transits through the US as a pretext to step up aggressive activity in the Taiwan Strait, a Washington official said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is to stop over in the US on her way to and from Central America next week, but her administration would not confirm a meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Tsai’s delegation is to leave Taipei on Wednesday next week and stop over in New York City, Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) told a news conference yesterday. Tsai is then to head to Guatemala on Saturday next week for talks with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and to meet with Taiwanese expatriates, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. On April 3, Tsai is scheduled to travel
Taiwan is to obtain maintenance parts for its AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, after the Republic of China Defense Mission to the US and the American Institute in Taiwan signed a NT$1.44 billion (US$47.1 million) deal that is to be in effect until Sept. 15, 2028. Taiwan operates 29 Apaches. The US is concerned that if China were to blockade Taiwan, it would be impossible to supply the nation with military equipment, natural gas, coal and other items, a military source said on condition of anonymity. The deal seeks to ensure stable supply of maintenance parts for the Apaches to keep them operational