Australia, the United States and Britain will unveil a landmark new security pact to share advanced technologies, including nuclear submarine technology, in a major international announcement on Thursday morning.
As part of the pact, to be known as AUUKUS, the US would help Australia develop a nuclear submarine capability, which could result in Australia dumping its $90 billion submarine deal with France, sources confirmed.
The working group will enable the three countries to share information in areas including long-range strike capabilities, artificial intelligence and underwater systems in a thinly veiled bid to counter China, Politico reported, citing a White House official and a congressional staffer.
The announcement will be made at 7am AEST, when the White House said US President Joe Biden would deliver “brief remarks about a national security initiative”.
In Australia, federal cabinet ministers were called to a top-secret meeting in Canberra on Wednesday ahead of the announcement. Some members of cabinet were granted border exemptions to urgently fly to Canberra for the hastily arranged meeting, sources familiar with the development said.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who are in Washington for a series of meetings over the next two days, were said to have joined Wednesday’s meeting via a secure connection.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and three other senior members of his frontbench were also given the rare opportunity to be briefed on the highly sensitive matter.
Several Coalition MPs told this masthead they had been ordered at short-notice to dial into a rare conference call for 9.30am on Thursday, but none were aware of the reason for the briefing.