China should be on alert over Australia’s future nuclear-submarine base: experts
Published: Mar 07, 2022 10:17 PM
Scott Morrison Photo:Xinhua

Scott Morrison Photo:Xinhua

Australia revealed a big-budget plan to build a base for nuclear-powered submarines, which will be the first such project by the country since the 1990s. The new base is very likely to be used by US nuclear submarines first rather than Australia's own, given that its first nuclear submarine under the AUKUS agreement will reportedly be in the water by 2038, said a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity, warning that the base could pose a threat to China, and China should step up vigilance and strengthen its maritime defense forces.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced the base would be set up on the east coast, Australian media reported.

"It would also enable the regular visiting of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines," Morrison said. He noted more than 10 billion Australian dollars ($7.4 billion) would be needed to meet the services and facilities needed for the shift from the Collins-class conventional submarines to the nuclear-powered submarines.

Morrison cited the implications of the Ukraine crisis, which he claimed would inevitably stretch to the Indo-Pacific region, which Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the Naval Research Academy of the People's Liberation Army, said was an excuse in an attempt to defend his aggressive national defense plan.

Zhang said the plan to set up the nuclear-submarine base actually follows the same purpose as that of joining the AUKUS alliance, as Australia is determined to act as an accomplice of the US' global hegemony and intervention in regional affairs, and cooperate with the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China.

The AUKUS submarine deal has come under intense criticism by Australia's neighbors and nuclear disarmament advocates around the world, with countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia expressing concern that AUKUS could spark a nuclear arms race and undermine regional peace, Zhang said.

A Beijing-based anonymous expert told the Global Times on Monday that as the nuclear submarines are reportedly not likely to be in the water until the late 2030s, so before the deliveries of the Australia's nuclear submarines, China would develop and be more responsive to potential threat.

But the anonymous expert warned that once the base is completed, it can deploy the nuclear submarines of Australia as well as those of the US and the UK, which would pose a more direct threat to China.

"Perhaps Australia's nuclear submarines are less important in the whole AUKUS framework than the base, which could give US nuclear submarines a stable location closer to China but less vulnerable to attack," the expert said.

Zhang held similar views, saying that the base will "undoubtedly be used by the US."

 "In this regard, China should remain committed to the path of peaceful development, and continue to develop its maritime defense capabilities, so as to cope with possible external threats and safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity," Zhang said.