Buying nuclear submarines to put Australia's sovereignty at risk: defense chief

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-30 16:18:24|Editor: Zhou Xin
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CANBERRA, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne on Friday rubbished suggestions from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott that Australia made a mistake in not purchasing nuclear submarines, saying nuclear subs would put Australia's sovereignty at risk.

Early last year, the Australian government announced a 50 billion Australian dollars (38.5 billion U.S. dollars) deal with French shipbuilder DCNS to build 12 diesel-electric Shortfin Barracuda submarines in South Australia, turning its back on the option of going nuclear.

Speaking at a function in Sydney overnight, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was in charge during negotiations with shipbuilders, said his biggest regret was not changing his mind on the "nuclear no-go mindset."

DCNS does build a nuclear version of its Barracuda class submarine, but on Friday, Payne told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio that considering nuclear subs would have set the program back "a decade" and placed Australia's defense sovereignty at risk.

"One of the decisions which we have made, and it comes from the experience of the development of (the current, ageing) Collins class submarine, is that we want to ensure we have sovereign capability over this extraordinary important strategic military capability," Payne said.

"To lease that or to trade that out to another entity as has been suggested I think would be very, very deleterious to our own sovereign capability."

Earlier, in a statement, the defense minister also said Australia didn't have the infrastructure or personnel required to build nuclear subs, indicating it would take "far longer than a decade" to do so.

"The advantages of acquiring nuclear-powered submarines would be lost without the capacity to sustain them in Australia, particularly if we were required to support the submarines in Hawaii or Guam, noting time required to reach and return from these locations for maintenance," Payne said.

"Developing a sovereign nuclear submarine fleet would also come at a very substantial cost premium to our conventional fleet."