AUKUS will build hypersonic missiles to counter China in the Indo-Pacific and engage “allies”

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The United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia announced on Tuesday that these countries, under the AUKUS trilateral security agreement, will develop nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons.

“We also committed today to begin new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and deepen cooperation on ‘defence innovation,’ the UK government said in a press release.

The statement also said the countries will expand their cooperation in the areas of cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional underwater capabilities. AUKUS, however, left the door open for other allies to join the weapons development program.

“As our work progresses on these and other critical defense and security capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners,” the statement added.

It is worth mentioning that the announcement comes days ahead of the visits of Union Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to Washington and Tokyo where they are to hold 2 ministerial dialogues +2 with their counterparts. The United States also said it expected India to “reduce” Russian military equipment.

The timing of the announcement also coincides with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is however unclear whether India will be invited to join the program.

India remains a key partner of Australia, the United States and the West in the region and they have tried to force India to harden its stance against Russia.

The statement released by the UK Prime Minister’s office also showed that the UK and US remain focused on the Indo-Pacific despite the situation in Ukraine in a bid to counter China.

China’s development of hypersonic missiles and its testing have rattled the United States and it is also concerned about Chinese missile systems being built in western China, which have the capability to enter the mainland. US but also pose risks for India due to its proximity to the reality line. Control (LAC) and Eastern Ladakh.

Russia also claimed to have used the Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile at Mykolaiv in Ukraine twice during its so-called “military operation”. China has tested its own hypersonic missile using the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle where the missiles are initially launched into space and then shot down on the target using the dedicated aerodynamic craft attached to them.

AUKUS’ announcement comes ahead of a meeting of Quad leaders that could be held sometime in May in Tokyo. Japan has a policy of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons, but China’s aggressive stance in the South China Sea and North Korea’s missile tests could be used by AUKUS to take Tokyo into its fold.

(with contributions from Nikkei Asia and The Guardian)

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