FILE PHOTO: Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong speaks during a Quad Ministers’ panel at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India on March 3, 2023. OLIVIER DOULIERY/Pool via REUTERS
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The South Australia state government said Friday that the first nuclear submarines under the AUKUS pact between the United States, Britain and Australia may be built overseas, but that there could be more than the eight in the initial agreement.
The Australian federal government has indicated it would construct the nuclear-powered submarines in the South Australia state capital of Adelaide, but state premier Peter Malinauskas said he was unclear about the number of orders.
“My hope is we end up producing a lot more than eight nuclear submarines here in South Australia,” Malinauskas told ABC Radio. “There is not an example anywhere in the world of any nuclear submarine production line starting and then stopping … so once you start producing nuclear submarines, you keep producing nuclear submarines.”
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she believed AUKUS would be “enormously beneficial” to her home state of South Australia, as the pact was expected to create local jobs.
Reuters, citing four U.S. officials, reported on Wednesday Australia was expected to buy up to five U.S. Virginia-class nuclear submarines in the 2030s as part of AUKUS.
Adelaide was chosen as the base in 2016 when France won a A$50 billion ($33 billion) deal to build 12 submarines for Australia before Canberra ditched that in favour of AUKUS, causing fury in Paris.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, on an official trip to India, will meet U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday in San Diego, site of major U.S. Navy operations, to chart a way forward on AUKUS.
AUKUS will enable Australia to receive the technology required to deploy nuclear-powered submarines amid China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific region. China “firmly objects” to AUKUS, its foreign ministry said this month.
($1 = 1.5228 Australian dollars)