In a little-reported meeting last week, senior Biden administration officials declared that the AUKUS deal for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines was aimed at “defeating” China, which they described as the “threat of our life’.
The bellicose comments were delivered at an event in Washington on Monday attended by an Australian delegation, including government and opposition politicians, and representatives of arms manufacturers.
The Australians, Labor MP Meryl Swanson and Liberal Senator James Paterson, were in Washington to discuss implementation of the $368 billion submarine deal announced last month. Under the deal, Australia will acquire a US fleet of nuclear-powered submarines over the next decade, before starting joint construction of a new submarine design in cooperation with Britain.
Swanson and Paterson’s trip had an extraordinarily low profile, with little media coverage or government reporting. This is undoubtedly because the AUKUS pact has provoked widespread opposition within Australia. The content of the talks further undermined claims that Australia’s acquisition of the submarines is in no way a defensive move, intended to serve as a ‘deterrent’, as the Labor government has claimed.
Instead, senior US officials portrayed AUKUS, the US militaristic pact with Britain and Australia, as well as the submarines themselves, as an aggressive instrument of US foreign policy.
Speaking at the dinner, US Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro proclaimed: “Having been born in Cuba I personally understand what communism is, and it is indeed the threat of China and its destruction of the world order that we are committed to, as three nations, to defeat in every possible way.’
Del Toro’s hysterical anti-communist spiel about a Chinese regime that restored capitalism decades ago was no doubt tied to his background in the fascistoid Cuban emigrant community in the United States.
However, Republican Congressman Rob Wittman, vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, also made the same essential point. He declared: ‘Make no mistake, the threat to our lives is the Chinese Communist Party. No doubt. It will test all aspects of who we are as nations.’
Talking about the ‘defeat’ of China and referring to Beijing as the ‘threat to our lives’, in a meeting attended mainly by arms dealers, can only have one meaning. Del Toro and Wittman were clearly stating that AUKUS and the submarine deal are a preparation for war with China.
This was more or less acknowledged by the only corporate press article on the meeting, published in the Australian .
The comments, he admitted, were ‘seeming confirmation of Chinese and Russian accusations that the three-nation military alliance, which has pledged to equip Australia with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines by the 2040s, was aimed at Beijing and Moscow’. The Australian noted that the comments were much more explicit than those made by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, his British counterpart Rishi Sunak or Biden when they announced the submarine deal.
The statements were fully in line with the doctrines of the US government and the Pentagon. In 2018, a Pentagon strategy paper stated: “Great-power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security.” It explicitly identified China and Russia as threats to US global dominance.
The Biden administration’s National Security Strategy 2022 stated: ‘We will compete effectively with the People’s Republic of China, which is the only competitor with the intent and, increasingly, the ability to reshape the international order.’
Other US government documents have acknowledged that China does not pose a threat to the global activities of the US military. Last year, for example, the Defense Department’s annual report stated that China’s only military ambition was to “restrict the US presence in China’s periphery.”
In reality, references to the ‘international order’ express the fear that China’s economic growth, which comes amid a long decline of US imperialism, threatens the pre-eminence of US capitalism.
The comments by del Toro and Wittman underscore the deceitful nature of the various Labor Party justifications for the waterboarding deal.
When initially announced, Albanese, along with his Defense Minister Richard Marles, vaguely stated that the submarines would serve to defend the northern approaches to Australia. The clear implication was that Australia was somehow facing the prospect of an invasion launched from Asia.
In a speech last month at the National Press Club, former Prime Minister Paul Keating shot down these insinuations. He noted that the Chinese would need to launch an armada that would have to travel some 6,000 kilometers before reaching the largely barren and uninhabited northern and western parts of the vast continent. China, moreover, had no conceivable motivation for carrying out such an operation.
Instead, the warnings were a thinly veiled rehash of racist claims of a ‘yellow peril’ coming from the north, associated with the ‘white Australia’ policy on which the country was founded. Their goal was to hide the fact that long-range, nuclear-powered submarines would be tasked with carrying out offensive operations off the coast of China as part of any US-led war.
Following Keating’s intervention, the Australian government reversed course. Two days after his remarks, Marles said the submarine deal was not a commitment that Australia would automatically join a US-led war against China. His goal was to protect Australia’s trade routes through the Indo-Pacific.