US is in talks to produce nuclear submarines for Australia: Report

The UK and the US agreed to help Australia build and operate its own fleet of nuclear-propelled submarines by 2040. PHOTO: NYTIMES

SYDNEY - The US is discussing the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia to quicken the build-up of its defence capabilities in the face of China's growing military influence, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Under the plan, the US would provide Australia with the "first few" nuclear subs by mid-2030s, the newspaper said, citing Western officials. Meanwhile Australia would develop its own production capabilities.

Australia, the US and the UK forged an alliance last year to deepen defence ties and increase sharing of intelligence and technology as competition from China increases in the Asia-Pacific region.

Under the pact, the UK and the US agreed to help Australia build and operate its own fleet of nuclear-propelled submarines by 2040, expanding its military reach.

In a statement on Friday, the alliance members reaffirmed a "commitment to Australia acquiring this capability at the earliest possible date."

Australia confirmed last week that it would build up its industrial base and skilled workforce to help construct and maintain a future fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Still, many details remain to be resolved. Australia has yet to announce which submarine model will be chosen for the partnership, or when the new vessels might be ready for service.

Australian sailors are scheduled to be trained by the UK Navy onboard its nuclear-powered submarines, but no timeline has been disclosed.

The security partnership has drawn fierce opposition from China, with authorities escalating its concerns to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Beijing has argued that the agreement to give Australia nuclear submarine technology breached international non-proliferation treaties.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he was satisfied with the alliance partners' engagement so far, prompting Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning to accuse the agency of turning "a blind eye" to international concerns. BLOOMBERG

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.