President Joe Biden traveled to San Diego on Monday with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to announce a phased plan for Australia to acquire conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines. According to the White House, the agreement outlines how Australia will acquire up to five nuclear-powered submarines from the United States, marking the first time in 65 years that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology with another nation. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stated, "One of the most important parts of this partnership is increasing each of our countries' submarine capabilities."
The partnership, known as AUKUS, aims to boost Australia's submarine program. Albanese called the plan "the biggest single investment in Australia's defense capability in all of our history" and said the partnership would help create 20,000 Australian jobs. The U.S. and the U.K. will immediately increase port visits of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines in Australia under the first phase of the Optimal Pathway, followed by rotating through Australia under Submarine Rotational Force-West as early as 2027. The U.S. intends to sell three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the 2030s, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed. Both Australia and the U.K. will develop and deploy SSN-AUKUS, a new conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine that incorporates critical U.S. technologies.
Biden called AUKUS a "testament to the strength of the longstanding ties that unite us and to our shared commitment of ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains free and open, prosperous and secure, defined by opportunity for all — a shared commitment to create a future rooted in our common values." Sunak cited "new kinds of challenges" that have arisen, including "Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, China's growing assertiveness, the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder, and division."
During his visit to Naval Base Point Loma, Biden announced an increase in port visits to Australia and a rotation of U.S. and U.K. nuclear-powered subs in Australia starting later this decade. The President also attended a fundraiser where he spoke for 39 minutes to about 40 people, including Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, touting his legislative record. The event raised $1 million for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund.
Biden's visit to San Diego was his first since a 19-hour visit in October 2020. He is scheduled to travel to the Los Angeles area on Tuesday to discuss efforts to reduce gun violence in Monterey Park, the scene of a recent mass shooting that killed 11 people. California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson stated that Biden should address issues such as inflation, fentanyl, and energy prices.