Despite Australian citizens remaining under strict travel restrictions, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has travelled to the UN Assembly in New York.
The Prime Minister and US President have engaged in their first one-on-one meeting behind closed doors. This comes after the US, Australia, and UK formed a ground-breaking security alliance (AUKUS) to handle geopolitical strains in the Pacific.
As part of this arrangement, Australia has scrapped its unpopular $90 billion French submarine deal and opted to replace them with industry-standard nuclear-powered submarines.
It is thought that the closed-door talks between the Prime Minister and President relate to highly sensitive security issues.
“The United States as no closer or more reliable ally than Australia,” said Biden. “United States and Australia work in a lockstep on the challenges that I laid out today in my speech to the United Nations including handling COVID, addressing the climate crisis, defending democracy and shaping the rules of the road in the 21st century.”
Biden’s speech included references to the World Economic Forum’s demand to ‘Build Back Better’ in rhetoric that Morrison has so far avoided.
The decision to drop the French submarines has been expected for a long time, but it caused tension with both French President Macron and the European Council. After Brexit, the European Union has been critical of a strengthening trade and political alliance between the UK and its historical partners Australia and the US.
Offending the European Union is a secondary concern when compared to the situation of China’s expansion and aspiration for the Pacific region. Australia holds a crucial strategic position for the West, but it has very little to defend it with.
"The environment we're seeking to operate has changed. I don't think there's any dispute about that,” said Morrison.
While Australia’s nuclear submarines will take time to construct and deliver, the deal could see Australia allow allied nuclear submarines stationed in its waters and joining the Navy.
Morrison and Biden held a joint meeting in front of the press afterwards where Biden name-dropped Japan and India in what is shaping up to be a firm geopolitical counterbalance.
“Things are changing,” insisted Biden.
Morrison spoke of ‘the freedom of our seas’ and ‘the freedom of our region’ as he addressed the press at the UN Assembly.
“The United States and Australia have always shared a partnership that is about a world order that favours freedom,” added Morrison. “And that’s why we have always stood together. Pursuing that freedom of course goes to our security interests.”
Both leaders also heavily focused on climate change, the carbon zero economy, and Covid19.
“I am confident that we can avoid the conflict that we all want to avoid, and I believe that includes not only Australia and many countries in our region and friends across ASEAN, but I believe that extends to our partners in Quad, Japan and India, as it indeed does to China,” added Morrison, when addressing the UN General Assembly.
While Australia and the US made sure to talk down a potential conflict with China, stating that they had no intention to enter into a new Cold War, their actions in the pursuit of security suggest that the world is facing a very serious situation.
China has come out in condemnation of the new alliance and the nuclear submarine deal, while Russia has been posting passive-aggressive tweets aimed at the French.