China’s permanent mandate to the United Nations has been exercised considerably in recent times. Its members are particularly angry at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Executive Director, Rafael Grossi, who on September 12 addressed the IAEA’s Board of Governors.
Grossi was building on a classified IAEA report on the role of nuclear propulsion technology in submarines supplied to Australia under the AUKUS Security Agreement.
The AUKUS announcement last September shook the Indo-Pacific security services. It signaled the transfer of otherwise distributed nuclear technology to third countries.
Ian Stewart, executive director of the James Martin Center in Washington, said: “Such cooperation would require more ammunition to support the narrative that the weapon states lack integrity in their commitments to disarmament. As such, it could be used by non-nuclear-weapon states,” he said.
Stewart then clarified his prejudice by suggesting that such cooperation would not involve the use of nuclear weapons by Australia and would be accompanied by safeguards anyway. It was a simple strategic step.”
James M. Acton, co-director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program, was less optimistic.
“[T]The non-proliferation implications of the AUKUS Submarine Agreement are negative and severe,” he said last year.
If Australia were to operate a nuclear submarine, it would be the first non-nuclear state to manipulate loopholes in the IAEA’s inspection system.
In setting this ‘damaging precedent’, ambitious ‘proliferators’ should seek a cover for the development of nuclear weapons with the reasonable expectation that they will not, thanks to Australia’s precedent, face intolerable costs to do so. could take advantage of the Navy’s nuclear reactor program.”
Terrible example set
It didn’t matter what the AUKUS members intended, he said. A frightening example was set to undermine IAEA safeguards.
Several countries in the region are quietly outraged by this tech-sharing triumvirate march in the Indo-Pacific.
A leaked Indonesian draft submission to the 10th NPT Rev Con of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons opined that the transfer of nuclear technology for military purposes is inconsistent in spirit. Purpose of the NPT.
The text of the draft states: “Indonesia regards any cooperation involving the transfer of nuclear material and technology for military purposes from nuclear-weapon states to non-nuclear-weapon states as increasing the associated risks. [of] catastrophic human and environmental impact”.
At the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference, Indonesia said nuclear material on submarines should be monitored more closely.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed to have had some success in proposing greater transparency and greater scrutiny regarding the distribution of such technology, claiming support from AUKUS members and China.
Mr Tri Tharyat, Director General for Multilateral Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said:
In Jakarta’s view, AUKUS is in a position to foment a potentially destabilizing arms race and keep pace with the ever-increasing pursuit of costly arms.
Even before AUKUS, China and the United States have been eyeing each other’s military buildup in Asia.
Beijing is increasingly concerned about its voracious pursuit of weapons. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in November last year, “The cooperation of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia on nuclear submarines has seriously damaged regional peace and stability. [and] intensify the arms race.”
China’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Wang Qun, told Grossi on Sept. 13 that China should avoid “pulling chestnuts from the fire” by supporting nuclear proliferation exercises by Australia, the US and the UK.
Rossi said the IAEA Council had held four “technical meetings” with AUKUS parties. “I welcome AUKUS officials’ engagement with the IAEA to date and look forward to this continuing to deliver on our shared commitment to ensuring that the highest non-proliferation and safeguard standards are met. I have.”
The IAEA report said the proliferation risk posed by the AUKUS agreement would be minimal given that only “complete, welded” nuclear power units would be received, making removal of nuclear material “very difficult”. I agree with Canberra’s contention that there is.
In any case, if such materials were to be used in units that would be used in nuclear weapons, they would have to be chemically processed using facilities that Australia does not have or seek to develop, he said. .
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning disagreed.
“While the report cited biased accounts to explain what the United States, United Kingdom and Australia did, it did not address the international community’s primary concerns about nuclear proliferation risks that could arise from AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation.” did not mention.”
It “turned a blind eye to the solemn position of many countries that AUKUS cooperation violates the purpose and objectives of the NPT”.
Beijing’s concerns are hard to dismiss.
Despite China’s own military buildup, the AUKUS partners’ attempt to dismiss the transfer of nuclear technology to Australia as technically harmless and NPT compliant is dangerous nonsense.
The precedent for nuclear proliferation through backdoors is being set despite Jakarta’s move towards the middle road.
[Binoy Kampmark currently lectures at RMIT University.]