Warning to Putin: UK, Australia and US fast-track nuclear plans in huge show of force

France 'could join AUKUS' in a few years says Shields

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September announced the AUKUS agreement. It sparked fury in Paris at the time as it scrapped a deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build as many as 12 diesel-powered vessels. The three partners had initially said work on the details and specifications could potentially take 18 months.

But now, amid tensions with Russia, it appears those plans have been sped up.

Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton said: “We will have an announcement within the next couple of months about which boat we are going with, what we can do in the interim.

“Both the U.S. and the U.K. understand the timelines, they understand what is happening in the Indo-Pacific, and they are very, very willing partners.”

Australia’s investment is intended to replace an ageing fleet of Collins Class submarines.

They had originally hoped to have the vessels before 2040.

But Mr Dutton suggested that the plans could be sped up.

He said: “We are going to acquire the capability much sooner than that.

“The arrangement that’s underway at the moment between the U.S. and U.K. has been incredibly productive.”

It comes as Mr Morrison will say today that Australia is facing the most “dangerous” situation since World War 2.

He will deliver a keynote speech to the Lowy Institute on Monday over the threat posed by Russia and China.

He will also announce a new nuclear submarine base will be built on the east coast, with Port Kembla and Newcastle in NSW and Brisbane in the running as possible locations.

The new base will house at least eight of the new nuclear-powered submarines.

This morning, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China’s friendship with Russia is “rock solid” and the prospects for cooperation are very broad.

Beijing has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Mr Morrison says the two countries represent an “arc of autocracy”.

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Mr Morrison will add: “We condemn Russia’s abhorrent actions in the strongest possible terms, as a gross violation of international law and an assault on freedom.

“This is the latest example of an authoritarian regime seeking to challenge the status quo through threats and violence.

“Our rules-based international order, built upon the principles and values that guide our own nation, has for decades supported peace and stability, and allowed sovereign nations to pursue their interests free from coercion. This is now under assault.

“A new arc of autocracy is instinctively aligning to challenge and reset the world order in their own image.

“We face the spectre of a transactional world, devoid of principle, accountability and transparency, where state sovereignty, territorial integrity and liberty are surrendered for respite from coercion and intimidation, or economi” entrapment dressed up as economic reward.’

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