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Australia signs deal to get naval nuclear information from US, UK

Australia on Monday signed an agreement with the US and the UK to access classified nuclear submarine information under their AUKUS security partnership, an official statement said.

“The signing of the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement with our AUKUS partners – the United Kingdom and the United States – is another important step in Australia’s pursuit of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines,” the Australian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said under the new agreement the US and the UK will share sensitive and classified naval nuclear propulsion information with a third country for the first time.

“This agreement will support Australia in completing the 18 months of an intensive and comprehensive examination of the requirements underpinning the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines,” said Dutton.

“The United Kingdom and the United States will be able to share naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia, which they cannot with any other country, in the determination of the optimal pathway to acquire nuclear-powered submarines for operation by the Royal Australian Navy,” he added.

Under the deal, the UK and the US will also provide access to Australian personnel for training and education from their British and American counterparts.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the agreement and said his country had secured something it was seeking for a long time.

“Now, this is not a defense alliance or security pact, as I’ve made clear on numerous occasions. Australia will fully and absolutely meet all of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as I’ve made very clear to many leaders around the world, as we’ve discussed this issue in recent weeks,” Morrison told reporters during a news conference in Canberra.

He called the agreement an important step for his country’s future.

In September this year, Australia joined AUKUS trilateral security alliance with the US and the UK to defend the Indo-Pacific zone from China’s influence and discarded its future multibillion-dollar submarine program with France.

The move angered Paris and French President Emmanuel Macron recalled its ambassador from Canberra.

In October, the envoy returned to Australia, but Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said the ambassador was asked to review relations.

The axing of the deal created a diplomatic furor and a heated war of words between the leaders of the US, France, and Australia. The crisis appeared to be receding after US President Joe Biden and Morrison met and spoke by phone, respectively, last month with Macron.

However, the submarine dispute grew after Macron later called Morrison a liar for canceling the $90 billion contract at the last minute.