In an effort to counter China and its strong military navy technology, the United States, Australia and the UK announced their new joint AUKUS agreement. This partnership will allow Australia to equip itself with stealthy, long-range nuclear-powered submarines in order to stand strong against China’s growing military capacity. It is evident that an acceleration of an arms build-up in the Indo-Pacific region is brewing, especially given that India, Vietnam, Singapore and Japan continue to increase their military spending. It is the beginning of a new political era marked by a strained military contest in the Indo-Pacific.

China is expected to step up its military modernization as a result of the outright military buildup by the US, UK, and Australia. The US, set on deterring the Chinese power in Asia, has also incited other countries such as India and Vietnam to speed up their own military plans. As one country increases military capacity, others fear the worst and feel pressured to increase spending themselves.

Furthermore, countries that have typically remained neutral in the US-China conflict, face a growing pressure to choose a side as Anglo-Saxon countries exercise greater force. 

Dino Patti Djalal, a former Indonesian ambassador to the United States commented, expressing worry that  “this will spark an untimely arms race, which the region does not need now, nor in the future.”

While the submarines confirmed by the AUKUS agreement will not be ready for operation for another decade, the effect on China has been felt as an immediate  threat, and many politicians expect a strong oppositional action within the coming weeks as China plots military countermoves

As of now, US allies in the region include Japan and Taiwan. Many countries that have stayed silent in the past are beginning to express apprehension about supporting China. India, for instance, has also expressed interest in increasing its military spending; they plan on amassing another 350 military aircraft vessels within the next two decades.  Japan is also working on hypersonic missiles that pose a threat to Chinese naval ships. Finally, Taiwan has planned a $16.8 billion military budget

The Biden Administration has also promised to help neighboring Chinese nations to counter Chinese military build up, but many nations, such as Indonesia are still on the fence, and prefer to remain neutral in their relations with Washington and Beijing

“This AUKUS agreement very vividly shows that East Asia has become the focus of United States global security strategy,” said Zhu Feng, a professor at Nanjing University in east China. “It’s a reminder to China that if we can’t ease tensions with neighbors over the South China Sea and East China Sea, the U.S. will continue trying to take advantage of this tension.”

Edited by Andrea Ruffoni

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