Australian submarine deal adds to arms build-up in Asia
Positioning the hard-to-locate submarines closer to seas near China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula could be a powerful deterrent against the Chinese military, said Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official responsible for relations with China.
“The wars in the Middle East are over,” said Thompson, now visiting senior researcher at the National University of Singapore. “We are in an interwar period, and the next will be a high-end, high-intensity conflict with a close competitor, possibly involving China, and most likely Northeast Asia.”
After condemning the submarine deal last week, the Chinese government has said little else. But China’s military leaders and planners will certainly consider military and diplomatic countermeasures, including new ways to punish Australian exports, already hit with punitive bans and tariffs as relations have deteriorated in recent years. .
Beijing can also accelerate its efforts to develop technologies to find and destroy nuclear-powered submarines long before Australia receives them. Most experts have said that a technology race is more likely than a generalized arms race. Chinese production of new warships and fighter jets is already rapid. Its anti-submarine technology is less advanced.
In the shorter term, the Chinese authorities could step up their efforts to mobilize regional opposition to the submarine plane and to the new security group, called AUKUS, for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“If you’re in China, it also makes you think, ‘Well, I’d better move on,'” said Elbridge Colby, former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration. He said: “If Australia takes this big step, then Japan could take a half step, and Taiwan takes a half step, then India and maybe Vietnam.”