AUKUS deal endangers international security order

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Chinese and Russian envoys expressed their solemn stance against the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on Friday.

Wang Qun (R), Chinese envoy to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna, and Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, attend a press conference on the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal and related non-proliferation issues in Vienna, Austria, Nov. 26, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

The board set up a new agenda suggested by China, and for the first time dedicated discussions on the "Transfer of nuclear materials in the context of AUKUS and its safeguards in all aspects under the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons)."

The trilateral nuclear submarine deal "endangered the international non-proliferation mechanism and global strategic balance and stability, as well as the post-war international security order," stated Wang Qun, Chinese envoy to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna, and Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, at a joint press conference after the meeting.

AUKUS nuclear submarine deal intensified regional tensions and increased the risk of an arms race, and "Russia is deeply concerned about this," said Ulyanov.

At present, all U.S. nuclear submarines use weapon-grade highly-enriched uranium. If the trilateral nuclear submarine cooperation is to proceed, Australia will obtain a large amount of weapon-grade nuclear materials, which will seriously impact the international nuclear non-proliferation system, Ulyanov said.

AUKUS not only violates the relevant norms of comprehensive safeguards agreements, but will also have a serious negative impact on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the construction of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he said.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia concealed the progress of nuclear submarine cooperation from the international community, which is extremely non-transparent, Ulyanov stressed, adding that the three must report the relevant situation in a timely manner.

Wang emphasized that in September, after the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia announced the establishment of AUKUS, under which the United States and the United Kingdom will assist Australia's acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out that the trilateral deal will give rise to "five dangers" and "three risks," affecting non-proliferation regime, regional security and strategic stability, which was widely echoed by the international community.

The three countries draw lines with ideology and create new military blocs, and will exacerbate geographical tensions, said Wang, adding that, at a time when the international community generally opposed the Cold War and division, the United States flagrantly violated its policy of not engaging in a new Cold War, organized an Anglo-Saxon "small circle" and placed its geopolitical interests above international solidarity -- a typical Cold War mentality.

This move will stimulate regional countries to step up their military development, and even seek to break through the nuclear threshold, pushing up the risk of military conflicts, which China firmly opposes, he stressed.

Wang pointed out that AUKUS has huge hidden dangers and serious harm. "From the perspective of non-proliferation, it is a sheer proliferation act."

The key to AUKUS is the transfer of tons of nuclear weapons materials by the two nuclear-weapon states, the United States, the United Kingdom, to Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state, which obviously violates the purpose of the NPT, he explained.

So far, the three countries have always avoided this basic fact, and even tried to confuse the public. AUKUS is a big trouble for the IAEA's safeguard arrangements and must be corrected, he said, adding that the international security is threatened unless AUKUS is stopped.

Wang said that the IAEA Board of Governors on Wednesday decided to set up a new agenda item on AUKUS, starting the intergovernmental discussion process, which is the right step towards a proper solution of the issue.

The move fully reflects the serious concerns of the Board Members on the trilateral deal, shows that the matter goes beyond the existing mandate of the IAEA's secretariat, and that member states must jointly explore and seek solutions through an intergovernmental process, he added.

China has already proposed the establishment of a special committee that all member states can participate in, continue to have in-depth discussions on this issue, and submit reports to the Board and conference, Wang said.

Until the parties reach a consensus, the three shall not carry out nuclear submarine-related cooperation, and the agency secretariat shall not negotiate with the three on safeguards arrangements for the trilateral deal, Wang stressed.

The representatives of China and Russia also stated that they will closely follow the relevant trends of the trilateral deal, jointly maintain and continue to promote the relevant intergovernmental process initiated under the institutional framework, and work with all parties to defend the purpose of the NPT with practical actions, maintain the international nuclear non-proliferation system and jointly maintain global strategic stability and international peace and security.

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