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Why Biden Is Taking The Rare Step Of Sharing Nuclear Submarine Tech With Australia

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In a rare step, President Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States plans to share its nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia as part of a new defense partnership with that country and the United Kingdom.

The announcement comes as Biden tries to refocus U.S. national security and economic policy on the threat posed by China. In recent years, tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea — a major shipping lane with oil and natural gas resources — have escalated, with China building military outposts on several small reclaimed islands.

Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked about shared values and the need to secure peace and stability in the region as they appeared together, virtually, to make the announcement.

But none of them uttered the name of China, even as the United States and other regional partners have stepped up their military presence in the region, and the United States works toward reorienting its military posture toward the Indo-Pacific.

"We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve, because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific, enduring and flourishing in the years ahead," Biden said.

It's about nuclear propulsion, not nuclear weapons
The three countries now launch an 18-month effort to determine how best to share the nuclear submarine propulsion technology, which will allow the Australian navy's submarines to travel faster and farther, with more stealth.

The leaders emphasized that the nuclear-powered submarines would be conventionally armed.