China asks Australia not to open ‘Pandora’s box’ on nuclear proliferation
March 24, 2023
Photo: Defence Connect
The People’s Republic of China has asked Australia, the US, and the UK not to unlock Pandora’s box on nuclear proliferation in relation to the AUKUS defence agreement.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently made an announcement in San Diego, California on 14 March to provide Australia with nuclear propulsion, conventionally armed SSN AUKUS submarines.
The entire deal is worth $368 billion and expected to be completed in early 2030s pending US Congress approval, new vessels will enter service with Australia in the early 2040s.
“The AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation exposes the three countries’ double standard and hypocrisy on nuclear non-proliferation,” PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular press conference on March 23.
“The AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation will set an egregious precedent and encourage others to follow suit.
“It will place large amounts of weapons-grade nuclear material in the hands of a country in a nuclear-weapon-free zone beyond the effective reach of the international safeguards system.
“It will have a negative impact on the resolution of regional nuclear hotspot issues and may eventually lead to the collapse of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and backfire on the three countries themselves.
“We urge the US, the UK, and Australia to earnestly fulfill their international obligations, change course, and not unlock Pandora’s box on nuclear proliferation.
“We call on the International Atomic Energy Agency to live up to its non-proliferation responsibilities and refrain from endorsing the three countries’ acts of nuclear proliferation.”
Despite several reservations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has endorsed Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarines after the AUKUS announcement.
Wenbin said the transfer of tonnes of 90 per cent purity, weapons-grade highly enriched uranium from the US and the UK to Australia, was in stark contrast to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action capping Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium at 300 kilograms of uranium gas enriched to 3.67 percent purity.
“The nuclear proliferation risk here is only too obvious … the three countries use nuclear non-proliferation as a geopolitical tool,” he said.
“They have no scruples about proliferating nuclear material and technology to an ally, yet they castigate the others in the name of non-proliferation.”
“They have pressed the IAEA to invoke Article 14 of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) to make safeguards arrangements, which is essentially coercing the IAEA Secretariat into making safeguards exemption arrangements, despite the huge divergences among the international community on the interpretation and applicability of this article.
“The US, the UK, Australia, and the IAEA Secretariat have no right to take the matter of applicability into their own hands, still less strike a deal between themselves and impose it on the entire membership.”