Sunak, Biden and Albanese to meet in San Diego to finalise AUKUS deal

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is heading to San Diego on March 12, 2023 to finalise the AUKUS deal — a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. that will provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

The partnership was announced in September 2021 as part of these countries’ strategies to engage more deeply with the Indo-Pacific, largely to counter Beijing’s assertiveness in the region, including what Canberra has described as Beijing’s “economic coercion”.

“I am travelling to the United States today to launch the next stage of the AUKUS nuclear submarine programme, a project which is binding ties to our closest allies and delivering security, new technology and economic advantage at home,” Mr. Sunak said in a statement, prior to his departure.

Back-to-back meetings

Mr. Sunak will have meetings on Sunday and Monday with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Mr. Albanese, who has just wrapped up a visit to India, announced on Twitter that he had arrived in the U.S. along with Australia’s Navy chief, Mark Hammond.

The White House said Mr. Biden will fly to San Diego on Monday and will hold bilateral talks with Mr. Albanese and Mr. Sunak, in addition to AUKUS discussions.

Currently, only six countries have nuclear-fuelled submarines — India, the U.S., the U.K, France, Russia and China.

Australia, whose fleet consists of six diesel-powered Collins-class submarines, will be the seventh, once the AUKUS fleet is deployed.

Canberra could acquire up to five Virginia-class submarines from the U.S., in the 2030s, under AUKUS, according to a Reuters report.

It would also work with the U.K. to design a new generation of submarines, using American technology. These would likely not be ready until the 2040s.

Integrated Review

Mr. Sunak’s trip to the west coast of the U.S. comes as the U.K. prepares to release its updated Integrated Review, a comprehensive statement about its security and foreign policy, which will be released on March 13, 2023.

“The Integrated Review Refresh will address the grave risks from Putin’s Russia, the increasingly concerning behaviour of the Chinese Communist Party and hybrid threats to our economy and energy security,” Downing Street said on Sunday.

The partnership was announced in September 2021 as part of the strategies of the U.S., the U.K. and Australia to engage more deeply with the Indo-Pacific