Australia and the United States are being urged to turbocharge the AUKUS pact by jointly producing long-range missiles and using Australia as a testing ground for hypersonic weapons as Anthony Albanese prepares to make his first prime ministerial visit to the US capital.
Albanese will be feted at a rare state dinner in Washington, DC, in late October at the invitation of US President Joe Biden, just days before he has been tipped to make an as-yet-unconfirmed visit to Beijing.
Republican congressman Mike Gallagher, considered a rising star of American politics, used a speech in Canberra on Thursday night to say the AUKUS pact had the potential to “bring this region from the brink of war” if the three member nations expanded their ambitions and put their nations on a preventative “war footing”.
Gallagher, the chair of the US House of Representatives select committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said wargaming exercises conducted for Congress had found the American military would run out of munitions after just six days if a war broke out with China over Taiwan.
“Consequently, as much as Australia is relying on the US for submarine delivery, the US is likewise going to rely on Australia to co-develop and supplement our munitions stockpiles,” Gallagher, the co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Australia Caucus, told the Australian American Leadership Dialogue.
“With that in mind, we must prioritise the trilateral co-production of next-generation long-range missiles under pillar two of AUKUS, particularly with the help of next-generation energetic materials that can make our weapons more lethal and our defence supply chains less reliant on China.”
Pillar one of the AUKUS pact refers to the sharing of nuclear-powered submarine technology, while pillar two refers to other technologies such as hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
“The point is that the potential for AUKUS – from the undersea domain, to munitions and critical technologies, to logistics – is limited only by our willpower and our imagination,” Gallagher said.
“Which brings us to the paradox of the present day: to prevent war, AUKUS must in a sense adopt a war footing.
“We must wage peace with the same alacrity, creativity and vigilance with which we have together waged past wars.”
US Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth separately said that, under the AUKUS pact, Australia could be used as a testing ground for American hypersonic weapons.
“One thing Australia has in spades is long distances and relatively unpopulated land,” she told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
“A challenge for us in the United States when it comes to hypersonics or even some of our things like the precision strike missile – which is not a hypersonic weapon but has very long ranges in some of its increments – for us to find open spaces in the United States where we can actually test these weapons, it’s a challenge.
“Australia obviously has a tremendous amount of territory where that testing is a little bit more doable – so I think that’s a unique thing, as an example, that the Australians bring to the table.”
Last month, 22 Republican senators and three House members said they did not support the sale of at least three Virginia-class submarines to Australia unless the US dramatically increased its own production capacity.
While acknowledging it would take “billions more in investment by the US” to meet America’s own submarine requirements, Gallagher said: “I know there has been some hand-wringing on this point so I want to be clear: AUKUS will be successful, and America will fulfil its commitment to its friends.”
In a statement on Thursday morning, Albanese said: “I am honoured to accept President Biden’s invitation to undertake an official visit to Washington, DC.
“Australia and the United States have a longstanding relationship, based on deep friendship and trust and a shared commitment to peace, the rule of law and the values of democracy.
“My visit is an important opportunity to discuss our ambitious climate and clean energy transition, and shared goal of a strong, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
The invitation comes after Biden was forced to cancel a planned trip to Canberra and Sydney earlier this year because of emergency US debt ceiling negotiations.
The state dinner, which will be the fourth of Biden’s presidency, will take place on October 25.
Biden has previously hosted French President Emmanuel Macron, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for state dinners at the White House, an honour usually reserved for the US’s closest and most important allies.
Former president Donald Trump hosted former prime minister Scott Morrison for a state dinner in 2019.
It has long been speculated that Albanese could visit Beijing for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping around October 31, a date that would coincide with a historic trip by Gough Whitlam 50 years ago in which he became the first Australian prime minister to visit the Chinese capital.
Albanese said this week he looked forward to meeting Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi next month.
Source : SMH