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Biden makes an AUKUS submarine deal in the effort to counter China

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

President Biden is at a naval base in San Diego today to announce a U.S. submarine deal with Australia. But this is not just another business as usual military contract. Britain is also part of the deal, which is seen as a broader U.S. effort to work with allies to counter China. For more, we're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. And, Greg, let's just start with the basics here. What is in this deal, and why is it so significant?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, the U.S. and Britain are selling nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia. This group has a kind of unwieldy acronym of AUKUS for Australia, U.K., U.S. And it'll take a decade or maybe two for all of these submarines to be built and deployed. Now, we should note the only other time the U.S. shared cutting-edge nuclear submarine technology was with Britain way back in the 1950s. And President Biden is staging this high-profile meeting at naval base Point Loma in San Diego to drive home the point that the U.S. is working with partners for a stronger security presence in Asia. And it's a message clearly directed at a rising China.

SUMMERS: OK, so put this into some context for us. How does this deal fit in with what the administration is doing when it comes to Asia more broadly?

MYRE: Well, when Biden was vice president a decade ago, the Obama administration started talking about the need for the U.S. to pivot to Asia because of Asia's just increasingly important global role. And these efforts were really moving in fits and starts. But the Biden administration has really taken some concrete steps. In addition to this submarine deal, you're now hearing more about another group called the Quad, which is the U.S., Australia, Japan and India. It's non-military. It's a diplomatic alliance to counter China. And in just the past month or so, the U.S. announced it would have access to more military bases in the Philippines, which is right next door to China.

SUMMERS: Right. And so how is China responding to all of this?

MYRE: Well, just have a look at the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. He delivered a big speech today in China's legislature. He said China should play a larger role in international affairs, including global security systems. And these kinds of remarks are coming with a much sharper edge these days. Just last week, President Xi said the U.S. was trying to contain and circle and suppress China and that China will resist this. Also, President Xi plans to go to Russia soon, perhaps next week, to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The U.S. believes China is considering, but has not yet decided, whether it will supply Russia with weapons in its war to Ukraine, again creating some tension with the West.

SUMMERS: And, Greg, have we now reached the point where we can say that the U.S. and China are now in a Cold War?

MYRE: Well, you are increasingly hearing that assessment, but it often comes with caveats. The U.S. and China clearly have very different visions of what the international system should look like. Competition and rivalry are an absolute certainty. The hope is it doesn't become outright confrontation. Now, one of the key caveats is that the U.S. and China remain deeply intertwined, mostly through trade. And it may sound surprising, but U.S.-China trade hit an all-time high last year. So right now we're seeing both rising tensions and rising trade.

SUMMERS: NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks.

MYRE: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUN B AND STATIK SELEKTAH SONG, "SUPERSTARR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.