The US, the UK and Australia's attempt to whitewash their nuclear submarine cooperation failed again – for the fourth time. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting on September 12 agreed at its fourth consultation to discuss issues around the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation as a separate, formal subject, which means the cooperation is not something that the three countries can just decide among themselves – it must be governed by all IAEA members.
The US, the UK and Australia announced the establishment of a trilateral security partnership, known as AUKUS, on September 15, 2021, the core of which is for the US and the UK to assist Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines. The transfer of nuclear materials involved in the process is essentially a kind of nuclear proliferation, which has caused great concerns in the international community as that will aggravate the arms race, sabotage regional peace and stability, and seriously undermine the international non-proliferation regime.
As contracting parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the US, the UK and Australia should perform their non-proliferation obligations, yet they, turning a blind eye to the subject of nuclear submarine cooperation unanimously adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors, turned another way and tried to privately negotiate with IAEA's Secretariat on the safeguards and supervisory arrangements for the cooperation to cover up their act of nuclear proliferation.
But whatever tricks they play, they cannot change the basic fact that the trilateral nuclear submarine cooperation involves the transfer of weapons-grade enriched uranium and relevant technologies and equipment, which contains serious risks of nuclear proliferation, violates the purposes and principles of NPT, and exceeds the mandate of IAEA Secretariat. It must be discussed and decided by all IAEA members.
That the IAEA Board of Governors meeting has thwarted AUKUS' under-the-table movements four times tells us that the agency has seen through the clique's real intention of ganging up for Cold-War-like confrontation, and America and Britain's double standards of expressing concerns over the Korean Peninsula and Iran nuclear issues on the one hand and greenlighting the nuclear submarine cooperation with Australia on the other.
From the establishment of AUKUS in September 2021 to the signing of the Agreement for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information in November, which allowed Australia to obtain confidential nuclear submarine information from the US and the UK, to Canberra's announcement in March 2022 that it will build a new submarine base on the east coast to berth its future nuclear submarines and support the regular visits by American and British ones, the series of moves have put regional countries on edge. China, Indonesia, and other countries have all submitted documents to the tenth review meeting of the NPT held in August, expressing their concerns over the possible nuclear proliferation risks stemming from the AUKUS cooperation.
Instead of answering the international community's concerns, the AUKUS members are still being evasive about the details of their cooperation and have made it hard for IAEA to exercise effective supervision. What this Anglo-Saxon clique is up to in Asia Pacific is clear to all – it wants to copy NATO's old pattern of stirring up regional conflicts and confrontation in the region. Jusuf Wanandi, a senior fellow and co-founder of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) of Indonesia, said the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation has thrown the region into a serious risk of nuclear proliferation, and Indonesia is strongly indignant about that.
Nuclear weapons are the sword of Damocles hanging over humanity. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the risk of using nuclear weapons may have come to its highest level since the Cold War period. The nuclear submarine cooperation among the US, the UK and Australia is not their private matter, much less is it up to them to decide. They must give the world a definite answer on how to perform the non-proliferation obligations, and give up the plot to cover up their nuclear endeavors.
Editor's note: This article is originally published on cri.cn, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.