It is impossible to read this as anything other than a response to China’s rise, and a significant escalation of American commitment to that challenge. The United States has only ever shared this technology with the United Kingdom, so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the United States is prepared to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet the China challenge.
Australia cannot have this capability while assuming that it does not come with heightened expectations that Australia will take America’s side in any dispute with China.
That is the real long-term significance of the deal – even more than the agreement to base Marines in Darwin, this deal signals that Australia is betting on the United States as a long-term partner in its region as China’s rise continues.
It is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny.