Then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks at U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in 2009 (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON: If China wonders how committed Australia, the US and the UK are to working together, they need look no further than today’s comments by Kurt Campbell, who leads all things Indo-Pacific on President Biden’s National Security Council.

Look for “almost a melding of our services” between the allied navies in a remarkable new phase of allied partnership, Campbell said at the US Institute of Peace this morning.

“We will have more British sailors serving on our naval vessels, Australians and the like on more of our forward-deployed assets in Australia. This leads to a deeper interconnection and, almost a melding in the new respects of our services and working together on common purpose that we couldn’t have dreamed about five or 10 years ago,” Campbell said.

Why is this happening? “Fundamentally, it leads to what we believe is going to be the most essential feature of an effective strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and that’s deeper cooperation with allies and partners,” he said. “These tasks ahead in the Indo-Pacific we cannot take on alone. We must get on in partnership.”

In addition to the “melding” comments, Campbell provided scraps of new information about the AUKUS agreement between Australia, Britain and the US. Jim Miller, former Defense undersecretary for policy, was named to lead the US efforts on AUKUS. Campbell said he’s been “tasked” with leading US efforts in several areas.

First, Miller will “basically design an architecture about how the three countries will work more proactively on defense, on sharing perspectives of the Indo-Pacific.” That will mean coordinating “on a day-to-day basis” how defense, state diplomatic and other officials from all three countries will meet regularly “to harmonize our views and our positions in the Indo-Pacific.”

Most importantly, Miller will also “do whatever possible to provide the Royal Australian Navy with options to build nuclear submarines as rapidly as possible.”

Miller, he said, has 18 months to pull all of that together.

And Campbell did provide some glimpses behind the curtain, especially for those who still wonder why Britain is part of AUKUS. Great Britain, he said, “wants to be much more focused on the Indo-Pacific.” For the US that has benefits because “we want to extend this overall engagement with Europe about Asia.”

But these strengthened security relationships with Australia, Britain and other countries is, Campbell acknowledged, viewed by China as “Cold War thinking,” which they believe is not helpful. In fact, he said the Peoples Republic of China puts such strengthened bilateral security alliances between the US and other countries at the “top of China’s heartburn lists.”

That sort of dissonance is exactly why the National Security Council staffer said this morning that the most important thing for US-China relations are “open, clear lines of communication.”

The context for President Biden’s almost four-hour discussion Monday night with President Xi Jinping, Kurt Campbell said, is “that the United States is here to stay in the Indo-Pacific, and we’re going to defend and support the operating system that has been so good for so many of us for many years.”

At the broader national security level, Biden tried to convey to Xi that, in the realms of nuclear weapons, cyber and space, “as great powers we have an interest in doing what we can to head off problems — inadvertence, miscalculation, accident; that’s at the first level,” Campbell said.

Those talks, however, are “at the very earliest stages,” Campbell said.

In what appeared to be a reference to a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) with a hypersonic weapon, as well as China’s apparent commitment to substantially increase its numbers of nuclear weapons, the advisor said that “the Chinese are embarking in certain areas, again, in nuclear, cyber and space, and they are undertaking certain practices that we think are destabilizing.”

Talks about arms control and other ways to lessen the risks for accidents and misunderstanding in those realms are just beginning, he said, also noting that the Chinese have long resisted taking part on arms control talks.



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