Marles douses claims Trump would sink subs

Marles with British AUKUS allies

Source: AAP

Defence Minister Richard Marles has poured cold water on fears Australia’s deal to buy nuclear-powered submarines from the US will be sunk by Donald Trump if he becomes president, as key laws underpinning the deal pass parliament.

Concerns have been raised about a potentially capricious Trump presidency, with the US presidential election set for November.

The US president will need to sign off on the the transfer of Virginia-class submarines to Australia.

The US will sell Australia three second-hand Virginias in the next decade under the AUKUS trilateral security that also includes Britain before a new class of nuclear submarines co-designed by all three nations rolls off the production line.

Defence Minister Richard Marles says the nuclear subs deal is safe. Photo: AAP

Marles expressed confidence the alliance will transcend different presidencies.

“In terms of the Republicans and Trump, there has only been support for AUKUS from that quarter,” he said in an interview ahead of the Australian parliament passing key AUKUS legislation on Wednesday.

The laws crack down on the chances of military secrets ending up in the wrong hands and streamline defence industry co-operation with the US and Britain by cutting red tape.

Questioned on a previous incident where a rift opened between then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and then-president Trump over a refugee deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, Marles said the details of AUKUS were well understood across the political spectrum.

“Having strong effective allies is something which they see as a strength for the US and therefore us having this capacity and this capability sits within America’s national interests,” he said.

“That narrative is one that’s shared across the political spectrum, including those who support Donald Trump.”

Nuclear-powered submarines would boost what Australia brought to the table among an unprecedented military build-up in the region, Marles said.

“The equation that we are focused on is the collective security of the region in which we live and making our contribution to that,” he said.

“Our national security as an island trading nation lies well beyond our own borders, it lies in the economic connection that we have to the world.”

Australian and British leaders have said they will work with whoever is elected president to progress the alliance.

A Democratic congressman has also backed Australia’s acquisition after President Joe Biden tried to cut the production of one Virginia submarine in his proposed budget.

It raised concerns America would retain its submarines in the event of a weaker-than-expected naval force in the next decade.

But Congress had worked to stop proposed submarine cuts before, Joe Courtney said.

Australia also continued to work on stabilising military-to-military talks with China, which used to occur between the Defence Department secretary and defence force chief and their Chinese counterparts, Marles said.

“We’re not at that point but we are trying to work our way back in terms of getting the defence dialogue back into a more normal place,” he said.

“Having said all that, there are no plans for me to go to China at this stage.”


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