SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Wednesday (Mar 8) that he will visit the United States for a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden after his trip to India this week.
"I look forward to the continuing engagement that I have with the US administration," Albanese told reporters before leaving for India, without giving a date for the US trip.
Albanese is expected to sign a long-awaited pact to build a fleet of nuclear submarines during his US visit next week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday.
Albanese is due to travel to the signing ceremony, expected to be held next Monday in San Diego with Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the newspaper reported, citing its own sources.
"We will have further announcements about details soon about the arrangements that will be taking place," Albanese said.
Albanese said that his government wanted to diversify trade with India, Australia's sixth-largest trading partner, and will be leading a business delegation in the first visit by an Australian prime minister since 2017.
"The truth is that India, along with Indonesia, will grow to be the third- and fourth-largest economies in the world in coming years. That presents an incredible opportunity for Australia," Albanese said.
Albanese will reach India later on Wednesday and will be there until Saturday. He will join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Australia-India annual leaders' summit in New Delhi, and will also visit Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
For the last year and a half, detailed behind-the-scenes talks have taken place between Washington, Canberra and London about Australia obtaining sensitive nuclear-propulsion technologies.
Australia has ruled out acquiring nuclear weapons.
It is the first time US-derived nuclear submarine technologies will be exported since the 1960s, when the United States helped Britain design its own subs.
The submarine contract is worth tens of billions of US dollars, but experts say its significance goes beyond jobs created and investments pledged.
Nuclear-powered submarines are difficult to detect, can travel large distances for prolonged periods and are expected to be armed with sophisticated cruise missiles.
That, experts say, makes them a fearsome deterrent for any would-be foe - allowing Australia to launch strikes or counterstrikes deep into enemy territory with little warning.
Beijing has voiced deep opposition to the project, which it sees as "dangerous" and designed to corner China.
The deal is taking place under the auspices of AUKUS - a fledgling group including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that aims to share advanced military and other technology.
But major questions still hang over the project - whether Australia will look to buy US or British submarines, where they will be built and when they will be in the water.
"The AUKUS partnership seeks to provide a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability to Australia at the earliest possible date," a Pentagon spokesperson told AFP ahead of Albanese's announcement.
"Bolstering our deterrence means boosting all of our industrial bases, growing our collective capabilities and sharing technology as never before.