US to send high-level delegation to Australia on AUKUS mission

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration is sending a high level delegation to Australia for a series of meetings this week to review the progress of the trilateral AUKUS defense technology partnership, a U.S. official said on Monday.

AUKUS provides for the sale of U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and sharing of nuclear-propulsion technology with Australia, as well as joint development of high-tech weaponry. The three-way pact between Australia, the United States and Britain is the biggest defense project in Australian history and a response to China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific.

“We are building meaningful undersea capability among these three allies, we’re increasing our advanced technological collaboration, and we’re doing all of this in pursuit of a more stable and secure Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. delegation’s leader Mara Karlin, the acting deputy under secretary of defense for policy, said in an interview on Monday ahead of her flight to Canberra.

The U.S. is also sending representatives from the State Department, the White House’s National Security Council staff, the Energy Department, which oversees the nuclear fuel to power submarines, and a smattering of Pentagon offices, Karlin said.

As a part of the multi-day “deep dive” across the AUKUS’ agreement, Karlin said the Submarine Executive Group will meet to review progress on “Pillar One”, the historic sale of nuclear powered conventionally armed submarines to Australia.

The Advanced Capabilities Executive Group, comprised of the top policy personnel from the three countries’ defense establishments, will review progress on the “Pillar Two” efforts to advance cooperation and development in the fields of “artificial intelligence, quantum, cyber, electronic warfare, how we’re doing with innovation and information sharing,” Karlin said.

Last month, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met new U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson and said he hoped the U.S. Congress would pass AUKUS legislation this year.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot)