President Biden fundraises at Rancho Santa Fe, visits San Diego region with British, Australian PMs

President Biden flanked by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, announces Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) deal to provide five nuclear powered submarines to Australia at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego on March 13, 2023./NBC 7 screenshot

President Joe Biden went to an undisclosed Rancho Santa Fe location Monday evening where he met with Rep. Scott Peters and 40 guests for about 40 minutes in an effort to raise $1 million for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, sources said.

This was his final stop after a daylong visit to the San Diego area Monday where he met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to discuss the countries’ partnership and defense issues.

FOX 5 captured video of Biden arriving via helicopter in Del Mar around 6:15 p.m. There, he made his way to the final event of the day in Rancho Santa Fe for a Democratic National Committee reception, according to White House officials.

Biden began his day in San Diego, arriving at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado around noon. He was accompanied by his daughter Ashley and granddaughter Natalie.

San Diego leaders greeted the president, including Mayor Todd Gloria at the San Diego International Airport before Marine One departed for Del Mar.

During a joint press conference Monday, leaders announced a historic deal that would modernize Australia’s naval fleet by equipping the country with nuclear-powered attack submarines through AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States) as China’s military influence has become a growing concern for world leaders. The plan features the three countries to roll out a phased approach to introduce these submarines with nuclear propulsion technology to the Australian military.

The first of the new subs will be constructed in the U.K., with others to follow in Australia. Construction might not occur until the early 2030s because the U.K. needs to expand its industrial capacity and Australia needs to create the ability to build vessels of this magnitude. It likely won’t start constructing subs until the late 2030s or early 2040s.

Monday’s agreement stems from the Australia-United Kingdom-United States, or AUKUS, partnership, which was formed in late 2021 with the goal of collectively finding ways to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, a huge continental portion of Southeast Asia.

“These subs are nuclear powered, not nuclear armed,” Biden said while flanked by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Naval Base Point Loma.

AUKUS “is testament to the strength of the longstanding ties that unite us and to our shared commitment of ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains free and open, prosperous and secure, defined by opportunity for all — a shared commitment to create a future rooted in our common values,” Biden told a crowd of 150 dignitaries, naval officials and members of Congress. They included Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, and Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Australia.

Sunak agreed, saying, “The challenges we face have only grown.

“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing assertiveness, the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea all threaten to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division,” he added. “Faced with this new reality, it is more important than ever that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries.”

These remarks also were welcomed by Albanese, whose country has just under 50 commissioned navy vessels, smaller than the number in San Diego.

“The AUKUS agreement we confirm here in San Diego represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defense capability in all of our history, strengthening Australia’s national security and stability in our region; building a future made in Australia with record investments in skills, jobs, and infrastructure; and delivering a superior defense capability into the future,” Albanese said.

The pact is propelled by concerns that China could, at some point, invade Taiwan, sparking a global military crisis. The allies also say that the military bases China is building on artificial islands in the South China Sea could be used to thwart trade and the movement of ships and aircraft in that part of the world.

That makes AUKUS “a very, very big deal,” said Tai Ming Cheung, a China expert at the University of California San Diego to the San Diego Union Tribune.

“The U.S. has primarily — as we’ve seen with NATO — engaged with militaries in alliances but has not historically been willing to engage in industrial partnerships and sharing the most sensitive, technological secrets.”

He added that, “The U.S. has to have a more global footprint (militarily). It needs a lot more allies to help them in the Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. currently has about 275 ships, 71 which are submarines. China is rapidly building its own vessels and is expected to surpass the U.S. in the total number of subs by the end of this decade.

The deal “is being undertaken to help our closet allies (be) more powerful and capable of convincing Beijing that it’s no longer operating in a permissive security environment,” Charles Edel, a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said at a press briefing.

The new security pact will be carried out in three phrases. The first is just getting under way as the U.S. begins to have American submarines visit bases in Australia. The U.K. will do the same. Biden said Australian sailors will embed with the navies of both countries and study at schools specializing in nuclear-powered subs. In 2027, the U.S. and U.K. will begin placing their own subs at Australian ports on a rotating basis.

Australia currently has six Collins-class diesel submarines, which do not come close to matching the offensive and defensive capabilities of America’s various types of nuclear “boats,” including the four Los Angeles-class vessels homeported in San Diego.

The United Kingdom also has a small navy, with 72 commissioned ships. Its prime minister recognized the need for alliances, saying Monday, “Sixty years ago, here in San Diego, President Kennedy spoke of a higher purpose: the maintenance of freedom, peace, and security.

“Today, we stand together united by that same purpose,” Sunak said. “And recognizing that to fulfill it, we must forge new kinds of relationships to meet new kinds of challenge, just as we have always done.

The agreement will require an expansion of the industrial base in all three countries. The U.S. builds submarines in Virginia and Connecticut, which are at or near capacity, defense analysts say.

First lady Jill Biden is a sponsor of a Virginia-class sub, Delaware. “And she never lets me forget it,” Biden said Monday to laughter from the crowd.

The president’s other previous stops included Naval Base Point Loma and the Navy Gateway Inns & Suites.

Biden was set to leave Tuesday to Monterey Park, the site of a recent mass shooting, where he will discuss his efforts to reduce gun violence.

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