More countries could be welcomed into the next stage of AUKUS, which will focus on co-operation in areas ranging from hypersonic weapons to quantum computing, a United Kingdom minister says.
Alex Chalk’s comments were in response to a question in parliament from opposition defence spokesman John Healey, who asked him to provide an update on the defence pact’s second line of effort.
The first pillar of the partnership between Australia, the UK and the United States includes Australia getting its first nuclear-powered submarines.
The second one includes co-operation on advanced cyber, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation and information sharing.
“These are essential capabilities which can be delivered before the new AUKUS subs enter service,” Labour MP Healey said.
“The Integrated Review yesterday said very little on pillar two. So, can the minister overcome his reluctance today and provide an update on pillar two? What are its strategic objectives? What are its timelines?
“Which of the technologies has the highest priority? And as the broad coalition of countries imposing sanctions on Russia has shown some of our strongest and most reliable allies are in the Indo-Pacific, could any other countries beyond the three AUKUS nations become involved in pillar two collaborations?”
UK minister for defence procurement Alex Chalk, who had just updated MPs on the submarine project, said: “There are a number of aspects to it (pillar two), from hypersonic, as he indicated, AI, but also underwater technologies as well. There will be further detail that will be explored in due course.
“What I think I can say to his point about other countries is unlike pillar one, which is not open for engagement beyond the three nations that we’ve already indicated, we will, of course, consider the interest that other nations have expressed in pillar two.”
“What AUKUS is designed to show, whether it’s pillar one or pillar two, is a shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and an international system that respects the rule of law, sovereignty, human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion,” he added.
“That’s what our nation stands for, that’s what AUKUS will deliver.”
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