Pact with U.S., Britain, will see Australia scrap French sub deal-media

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks in honor of labor unions in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Australia, the United States and Britain are expected to jointly announce a new trilateral security partnership that will see Australia scrap a multi-billion dollar program to build French-designed submarines and build a nuclear-powered fleet with U.S. and British technology instead, Australian media reported.

U.S. President Joe Biden is due to give a 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) address about a national security initiative, the White House said, and he would be joined virtually by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Johnson’s office said he would make a televised statement at 2100 GMT about a strategic national security matter alongside Biden and Morrison.

Australia’s ABC News, which cited no sources, said it understood Australia would use the American and British technology to replace its existing Collins class submarines with a type more suitable to the deteriorating strategic environment.

It said the new three-nation security pact would be known as AUKUS and will likely to be seen by China as a bid to counter its regional influence, especially in the contested South China Sea.

In the United States, Politico reported that Biden plans to announce a plan on Wednesday to share advanced technologies in a working group with Britain and Australia as part of moves to counter China.

Politico, citing a White House official and a congressional staffer, said the AUKUS working group would enable the three countries to share information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities.

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It quoted one of the sources as saying that as part of the pact, the United States and Britain would share their knowledge of how to maintain nuclear-defense infrastructure.

Australia in 2016 selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.

It has been one of the world’s most lucrative defense deals, but has been beset by issues and delays due to Canberra’s requirement that the majority of the manufacturing and components be sourced locally.

French officials were not immediately available for comment.

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