He added: “It further reinforces the feeling that we have a new cold war in Asia and Australia is betting that in this new cold war the United States will emerge victorious.”
The announcement is the latest move in a US strategy to push back China’s economic, military and technological expansion led by Mr. Biden; his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan; and its Asia coordinator, Kurt Campbell. Over the past eight months, they have prevented China from acquiring key technologies, including materials for semiconductor production; urged nations to reject Huawei; moved towards closer relations with Taiwan; and denounced the Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong.
Next week, Biden will bring the leaders of the “Quad” – an informal partnership of the United States, Japan, India and Australia – to the White House for a face-to-face meeting, another way to demonstrate a common will to face Beijing.
Mr Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week for about 90 minutes, only the second time the two leaders have met since Mr Biden took office. Few details of the conversation have been revealed, so it is not clear whether Mr Biden has notified his Chinese counterpart of the move to Australia. But none of this would have come as a surprise to Beijing; earlier, the Australians had announced an agreement with France for less technologically sophisticated submarines. This agreement collapsed.
Nonetheless, the decision to share naval reactor technology, even with a close ally, was a major decision for Mr Biden – a move that is sure to raise protests from China and questions from US allies and experts. in non-proliferation. The United States last shared nuclear propulsion technology with an ally in 1958 as part of a similar deal with Britain, administration officials said.
“There is a common understanding that we need to strengthen deterrence and be genuinely prepared to fight conflict if there is one,” said Bonnie Glaser, Asia program director at the German Marshall Fund, a political think tank. “This reflects growing concern about China’s military capabilities and intentions. “
The nuclear reactors that power American and British submarines use bomb-grade highly enriched uranium, a holdover from Cold War era designs. And for two decades, Washington has worked to eliminate reactors around the world that use bomb-grade fuel, replacing them with less hazardous fuel to limit the risk of proliferation.