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Australia Eases Thailand’s Concerns Over Nuclear Submarines

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Australia Eases Thailand's Concerns Over Nuclear Submarines

Following concerns expressed by neighbouring countries, Australia’s defence minister hopes to reassure Thailand that plans to acquire a new fleet of nuclear submarines will improve “collective security” in the region.

The submarines issue came up during Defence Minister Richard Marles’ visit to Manila earlier this week, he said in an interview. It was also on the agenda for talks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also serves as Defence Minister, on Friday.

“The point I’ll make to the prime minister is about contributing to the region’s collective security,” Marles stated ahead of the meeting.

“It’s about restoring balance and, as a result, contributing to the region’s peace and stability.”

Submarines

Australia has been debating whether it wants the United States or Britain to supply the new nuclear submarines, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expected to make a decision next month in Washington at a meeting with the leaders of both countries.

Malaysia and Indonesia have expressed their opposition to the acquisition, warning of an arms race.

However, Marles stated that Australia wanted to create a “sense of confidence” in the plan.

The previous Australian government cancelled a contract to buy French diesel-powered submarines in favour of US or British nuclear submarines, infuriating Paris.

submarines

The submarine deal arose from Aukus, a new security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States aimed at countering a rising China.

According to Marles, the multi-billion-dollar defence project and a new yet-to-be-released strategic defence review marked a significant shift in Australia’s defence policy.

He confirmed that the meeting in Washington next month would also detail an interim measure to fill Australia’s looming submarine capability gap as the country’s ageing Collins Class fleet approaches retirement.

Despite the bitter dispute over the cancelled contract, French President Emmanuel Macron stated last year that an offer to collaborate with Australia on submarines was still on the table.

But Marles said Friday that “acquiring a conventionally powered submarine is not going to form part of any solution”.

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