(CNN)The United Kingdom will ramp up defense spending by $6 billion to "fortify" against growing threats from Russia and China, the country's leader announced on the eve of highly anticipated talks with AUKUS partners, the United States and Australia.
In a statement released Sunday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to use the extra spending, spread over two years, to replenish ammunition stocks, modernize the UK's nuclear submarine program and fund the "next phase" of AUKUS, a security pact struck between the three nations in 2021.
Details of the AUKUS program are set to be revealed Monday in San Diego during a joint news conference between Sunak, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
The partners are expected to announce that Australia will purchase at least four nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines from the US, then build a modified version of the British Astute-class submarine with US combat systems and weapons during the second phase of the program. The deal is seen as a bid to counter China's military ambitions in the Pacific.
Democrat Congressman Joe Courtney told Australia's national broadcaster on Sunday that the Virginia-class subs provided by the US would be of "the highest quality."
"No one's gonna be foisting off clunkers on good friends and allies," said Courtney, a member of the US Congress' Armed Services Committee and chair of its Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
"This is about really having the type of stealth and the type of reach which the strategic environment requires," he said, naming China as the prime motivator for the submarine deal.
"China's missile force is really, in my opinion, the real reason that's driving this decision, because surface ships right now are so vulnerable," Courtney said. "We saw it in Ukraine where two relatively crude short-range missiles took down the flagship of the Russian Navy. The surface is really a much more risky place."
Last week, China reiterated its opposition to the AUKUS agreement, saying it "seriously exacerbates risk of nuclear proliferation" and drives an arms race that would destabilize the Asia Pacific region.
"We urge the US, UK, and Australia to abandon the Cold War and zero-sum game mentality, faithfully fulfill their international obligations, and engage in efforts conducive to peace and stability in the region," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Thursday in a regular news briefing.