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US and UK alliance will help build Australia's first nuclear submarines to counter China

US President Joe Biden unveils AUKUS, a new military partnership in the Asia-Pacific region, which China has called "irresponsible."

US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson launch a new security pact with Australia.

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US, the UK and Australia have forged a new defense partnership to counter China in the Asia-Pacific region. The trilateral deal, known as AUKUS, will see Britain and America help Australia to build its first nuclear submarine fleet. China has described the plan as "irresponsible."

US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the partnership over a video call Wednesday. Although none of the three leaders mentioned China, the new deal comes amid rising tension with Beijing over Chinese interest in Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The three countries will share intelligence, information and technology. Most significantly, the US and UK will share nuclear technology with Australia, a country that doesn't have nuclear power. Australia will build eight submarines powered by nuclear reactors, although they won't be armed with nuclear missiles.

"Let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability," Morrison said.

China quickly responded, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian telling reporters at a regular press conference on Thursday that AUKUS "undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race," according to Newsweek. Australia's neighbor New Zealand also said it would continue its policy of banning nuclear vessels from its waters, and would not allow Australia's new nuclear fleet into its territory.