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20 Mar, 2024 15:56

US and UK rushing to expand ‘Asian NATO’ – Politico

Washington reportedly wants to bring new members into the AUKUS pact before Donald Trump’s potential return to power
US and UK rushing to expand ‘Asian NATO’ – Politico

Canada and Japan could join the US, UK, and Australia in the AUKUS security partnership by the end of the year, Politico reported on Tuesday. The White House wants the deal done before November’s presidential election, which could see the more isolationist Donald Trump return to office, the report claims.

A diplomat involved in the talks told the outlet that Canada and Japan could join ‘Pillar 2’ of the pact, under which they would collaborate with the founding members on developing advanced military technology such as artificial intelligence and hypersonic missiles.

AUKUS was established in 2021. Under the pact’s ‘Pillar 1’, Washington and London pledged to help Canberra acquire nuclear-powered submarines, while ‘Pillar 2’ is a broader technology-sharing agreement. Apart from Canada and Japan, India, New Zealand, and South Korea have been floated as potential ‘Pillar 2’ members.

The White House is attempting to fast-track Canada and Japan’s membership, a second diplomat told Politico. US President Joe Biden, the diplomat said, is “pushing really hard to get some things on AUKUS pillar 2 done now, before the US election.” 

Trump is currently the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge Biden in November, and holds a slight lead over the incumbent in most polls. According to the first diplomat, Trump’s “American isolationism is a risk to the Indo-Pacific,” and should he win, Western leaders will phone each other up and ask: “What the f**k are we going to do now?”

“If pillar 2 fails then AUKUS fails, because we could have just had a submarine deal,” the diplomat said, adding: “We’re very confident of getting some of the pillar 2 deals done by the end of this year.”

With elections looming in the UK and Australia next year, London and Canberra are on board with the rapid expansion planned by Washington. An official working at the British Defense Ministry told Politico that “there is an impetus to get pillar 2 done sooner rather than later.” 

Trump’s position on AUKUS is unclear, and the former president has not spoken about the pact on the campaign trail. While Trump was hawkish on China during his presidency and instigated a major trade war with Beijing, he has expressed disdain for multilateral agreements and suggested that he would not defend NATO members who refuse to increase their defense spending.

Beijing has condemned the AUKUS pact as an attempt to build an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO,” with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin arguing last year that it is based on a “Cold War mentality which will only motivate an arms race, damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that AUKUS “provides for the deployment of a military strategic complex with a nuclear component in the region,” and is “confrontational” by design.