UK minister vows wide-ranging support for Australian subs

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The British international trade secretary on Friday promised wide-ranging support to Australia in developing and maintaining a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan was speaking in the Australian city of Adelaide at the end of a nine-day tour of Britain’s two new free trade partners, New Zealand and Australia.

The United States, Britain and Australia announced a year ago a new partnership called AUKUS to provide an Australian fleet of next-generation submarines powered by U.S. nuclear technology.

Australia has yet to decide whether it will opt for the U.S. Virginia-class or British Astute-class model.

Trevelyan described AUKUS as a “deep strategic partnership” that reflected mutual trust and longtime cooperation.

“I am personally committed to ensuring that the whole ecosystem which we have in the U.K. to build, upskill and maintain our own U.K. submarine enterprise will be right alongside you and our Australian friends and allies as you start on this complex and technically demanding defense commitment,” Trevelyan told an Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce forum.

“It’s going to span everything from construction to creating a nuclear engineering skills ecosystem to the training of your sailors to the through-life maintenance support and decommissioning of your AUKUS submarines,” Trevelyan added.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles visited Britain’s BAE Systems submarine-building facilities this week and attended the commissioning of the HMS Anson, the fifth of Britain’s new Astute submarines.

Marles announced that the British had agreed to allow “a significant number” of Australian submariners to train and serve on the new fleet.

Australia lacks nuclear expertise, having only one nuclear reactor. The Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney produces nuclear isotopes for medical use.

Trevelyan returns home on Saturday and will introduce legislation to the House of Commons on Tuesday that would make the British-Australian free trade deal law.

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