Senior US diplomat suggests AUKUS will deter any China moves against Taiwan

The United States Deputy Secretary of State has made an unusual linkage between the AUKUS security pact and deterring any Chinese move against Taiwan.

Under AUKUS, the US and United Kingdom will help the Australian defence force get nuclear-powered submarines. US President Joe Biden has previously stressed these would be not be nuclear-armed.

Reuters has reported the US State Department’s number two diplomat, Kurt Campbell, saying the new subs would enhance peace and stability, including in the strait that separates China and Taiwan.

The subs “have enormous implications in a variety of scenarios, including in cross-strait circumstances”, Campbell said.

United States Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

The AUKUS partners have been reluctant to tie AUKUS to tensions over Taiwan.

China calls AUKUS dangerous.

Campbell also said the US needed to step up weapons co-production with its allies. Australia, Japan and India have been doing this recently.

He also suggested the US would have something to say next week about other countries joining AUKUS Pillar Two – the part of the pact that New Zealand wants to participate in – which involves accelerating development and sharing of advanced military technology, including drones, hypersonic missiles and deep-space radar.

In talks with the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in late March, New Zealand Defence Minister Judith Collins looked at expanding US-New Zealand collaboration.

The Pentagon said the two “discussed the regional security environment, with a focus on the Pacific Islands region, and explored areas for further collaboration and security cooperation”.

RNZ asked Collins if this touched on Pillar Two, or on weapons co-production with the US.

Judith Collins

On the latter, she said in a statement on Thursday: “NZDF and the Ministry of Defence contract goods and services with various companies, both here in NZ and overseas. Neither organisation manufactures military goods.”

However, Collins has previously stated New Zealand must bring its own food to the party, and on that score mentioned homegrown Rocket Lab and hypersonics. Rocket Lab’s Pentagon contracts are in part, part of US efforts to build surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting for military purposes.

New Zealand also already helps fund the US military satellite system.

In regards to Pillar Two, Collins said she confirmed to Austin “New Zealand’s interest in building our understanding of AUKUS Pillar 2”.

“I added we would welcome further updates on Pillar 2, as the AUKUS partners determine plans for engaging others.

“As previously signalled, any decisions related to AUKUS Pillar 2 will be made by Cabinet in due course.”

(From left) Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps hold a press conference during the AUKUS Defense Ministerial Meeting in Mountain View, California, on December 1, 2023.

The Pentagon also said Collins and Austin spoke about New Zealand’s development and implementation of a defence police and strategy, principles and an upcoming defence capabilities report.

“They welcomed the alignment of these strategic documents with the 2022 US National Defense Strategy,” it said.

“Secretary Austin reaffirmed US support for New Zealand’s steadfast leadership in the Pacific Islands region as evidence of its commitment to a shared regional vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Campbell was reported saying about weapons co-production: “In the past, we have been … wary of certain kinds of co-production arrangements. The circumstances increasingly demand that we work with trusted allies and partners even on the most sophisticated weapons that will increasingly be part of our combined arsenals.”

Japan and Canada are widely believed to be at the forefront if AUKUS Pillar Two is opened to new members.

Next week, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Biden are expected to announce a “historic” security agreement next week, at a summit between them and the leader of the Philippines in Washington.

Campbell was reported saying more details about how Pillar Two might work would be forthcoming next week around the summit, and still more when the three AUKUS defence chiefs meet later this year.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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