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Thursday, 23 March 2023

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Australia, UK premiers to meet with Biden in California next week

Australia, UK premiers to meet with Biden in California next week

- Premier Albanese says AUKUS partners to meet in San Diego on Monday, but he avoids discussing nuclear submarine deal by saying 'further comments at appropriate time'
By Islamuddin Sajid

ANKARA (AA) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed on Thursday that he will meet with US President Joe Biden early next week in San Diego, a city on the Pacific coast of California state.

Speaking to reporters in Ahmedabad, the largest city in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Albanese said his British counterpart Rishi Sunak will also join them in the meeting on Monday, according to a transcript published on the prime minister's official website.

Albanese arrived on a four-day visit to India on Wednesday, accompanied by a high-level business delegation.

"I'll be making further comments about specific proposals (about AUKUS) at the appropriate time. But I can confirm that on Monday there will be a meeting of the AUKUS partners, between myself, President Biden, and Prime Minister Sunak," he told reporters when a journalist asked how Australia is going to choose five Virginia Class submarines from the US.

"In the United States, I will be having bilateral meetings with President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak. I look forward to announcing those details. They will be announced in the appropriate way, on Monday, US time, in San Diego," he added.

The Australian prime minister, however, clarified that his country will retain full operational control of new nuclear submarines, rejecting any notion of American command.

"Australia will retain, absolutely our sovereignty, our absolute sovereignty, 100%. It is very important that Australia as a sovereign nation-state, and that's something that's respected by all of our partners as well," Albanese said.

AUKUS is a trilateral security treaty for the Indo-Pacific region launched on Sept. 15, 2021, by Australia, the US, and UK.

Last month, two US congressmen, Senator Jack Reed, and Republican Senator James Inhofe, raised serious concerns about the AUKUS deal and warned President Biden against any plan to sell or transfer Virginia-class submarines to Australia before the US Navy meets its current requirements, according to the Australian ABC News.

In November last year, Albanese said his country has not changed its position and will build a fleet of submarines under the AUKUS deal, despite criticism from French President Emmanuel Macron.

His statement came after Macron accused former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of provoking a "nuclear confrontation" with China and said he had helped Australia achieve "freedom and sovereignty" through the submarine deal.

Diplomatic relations between France and Australia soured in September 2021 when Australia signed the AUKUS deal with the US and the UK to get nuclear-powered submarines.

Australia also canceled its Future Submarine Program (FSP) with France’s Naval Group to buy 12 submarines worth €56 billion ($57.2 billion).

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