Prime Minister Anthony Albanese may have been coy about the reason for his US visit, but it will take in a trilateral meeting with United States President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the AUKUS defence partnership.
- PM Anthony Albanese has announced he will travel to the US following his India visit to meet with President Joe Biden
- A spokesperson for the British PM Rishi Sunak has confirmed he will also be travelling to the US for talks
- Mr Biden is expected to host both leaders next week for a trilateral meeting about the AUKUS defence pact
Mr Albanese announced he would travel to the US for bilateral talks with Mr Biden, following his trip to India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I look forward to the continuing engagement that I have with the US administration,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Perth prior to departing for India, without giving further details.
On Thursday morning a spokesperson for Mr Sunak confirmed he would visit the US to meet Mr Biden and Mr Albanese for talks on the AUKUS defence agreement.
Australia’s ambassador to the US Arthur Sinodinos said last week that details of the submarine deal would be announced in mid-March, but the three governments had declined to comment on the specific time and place.
New details expected
Mr Biden is expected to host the two leaders in San Diego, home to the United States’ Pacific Fleet, according to sources familiar with the plans.
Sources told Reuters the trilateral summit would unveil new details of the 2021 AUKUS pact conceived as part of efforts to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.
While the US and Britain have agreed to provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, the three allies have yet to say exactly how the capability will be transferred to Australia, which does not have a nuclear propulsion industry.
AUKUS will be Australia’s biggest-ever defence project and offers the prospect of jobs in all three countries, but it remains unclear whether it will involve a US or a British-designed submarine, or a combination of both, or when the vessels will become operational.
Australian defence industry speculation has centred on Australia opting for a British design, while Australia’s ambassador to the US said there would be a “genuine trilateral solution”.
Questions over sharing of US military tech
Another concern regarding the pact is the sharing of US advanced military technology with Australia.
Some US bureaucrats have expressed concerns that America’s military adversaries may also find it easier to steal classified military technology and sophisticated intellectual property from within the Australian system.
As part of the pact, all three countries have agreed to work together more closely to share and develop cutting-edge military technology across a range of fields ranging from hypersonic missiles to cyber technology.
But US defence technology remains tightly controlled under International Traffic in Arms regulations and other restrictions.
A US State Department spokesperson said Washington was “actively working to re-examine and streamline our processes to optimise our defence trade in the AUKUS context,” and added: “We do not anticipate any challenges in implementing AUKUS due to US export-control regulations.”