Donald Trump is supportive of AUKUS defence pact, former Australian PM says

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 11:05 PM

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Donald Trump gave the AUKUS defence pact a “warm reception”, during a meeting with former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the latter said, one of the few public signs about Trump’s view of the deal.

Morrison, who left office in 2022, met Trump on Tuesday at the former president’s home in New York for talks that covered AUKUS, China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific, and the threat to Taiwan, he said in a post on X.

“These were issues we discussed regularly when we were both in office,” Morrison said on Wednesday.

“Once again, the former president showed his true appreciation of the value he places on the Australia-US alliance and the shared role of supporting what our friend, Shinzo Abe, called a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate to take on President Joe Biden at November’s presidential election, has not formally declared his position on the pact and his office did not immediately respond to questions about the meeting.

Trump’s take on the pact, signed with Australia and Britain after he left office in 2021, is a concern for Australia, which has been promised up to five U.S. Virginia-class submarines in a deal designed to counter China’s power in the Indo-Pacific.

The sales are set to start in the early 2030s, when the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet will shrink to a historic low, but some analysts have warned Trump’s America First doctrine could lead him to cancel or delay the transfers.

Morrison said Trump gave the pact a “warm reception” during their conversation, adding in an interview later with state broadcaster ABC that he had been “very encouraged” about the prospects for AUKUS.

Asked about the meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese repeated his government’s view that the deal made strategic sense, regardless of who was in the White House.

“I assume that anyone who looks at it … will say that the arrangements … are very sound and in the interests of all those who support a more secure and peaceful region and world,” he told ABC radio.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)