Why AUKUS Nuclear Sub Deal Will Stir up Pacific Into ‘Ocean of Storms’





MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“




Sputnik International



MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“


Sputnik International



MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

australia, nuclear materials, non-proliferation treaty, iaea, aukus nuclear submarine deal, australia gets nuclear materials, non-nuclear asean, china aukus non-proliferation concerns, ssn aukus, us-australia technology sharing, nuclear technology, arms race in indo-pacific, nuclear arms race in indo-pacific

australia, nuclear materials, non-proliferation treaty, iaea, aukus nuclear submarine deal, australia gets nuclear materials, non-nuclear asean, china aukus non-proliferation concerns, ssn aukus, us-australia technology sharing, nuclear technology, arms race in indo-pacific, nuclear arms race in indo-pacific

AUKUS, a trilateral pact between Australia, the US and the UK, is closing ranks to maintain control in the Asia Pacific and build deterrence against China, Russia and the DPRK at the expense of the region’s security and nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

AUKUS could turn the Pacific into “an ocean of storms”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned on June 6, echoing the concerns of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who lashed out at the Western trilateral pact on Monday.

In his speech on June 5, Hun Sen highlighted that the military alliance is the “starting point of a very dangerous arms race” in the region. Cambodia as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in general have repeatedly raised doubts about AUKUS’ compliance with non-proliferation rules and emphasized that ASEAN is a nuclear weapon-free zone region.

For its part, the Australian leadership has argued that it is not inclined to produce nuclear weapons. “We are talking about nuclear propulsion, not nuclear weapons,” insisted Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated in June 2022. Are China and ASEAN’s concerns justified?

What’s in AUKUS’ Nuke Subs Deal?

Two years ago, AUKUS members announced a joint nuclear-powered submarine deal, unveiling the details on March 14, 2023.

Under the three-phase deal, Australia is expected to buy at least three Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, with the option to acquire two more in the early 2030s.

Prior to that, the Aussies would host the “rotational forces” of US and UK underwater craft from 2027. To that end, the Biden administration established the Submarine Rotational Forces–West (SRF-West) which will operate out of HMAS Stirling at the western Australian city of Perth as early as 2027. According to the White House, the SRF-West would “help build Australia’s stewardship. It will also bolster deterrence with more US and UK submarines forward in the Indo-Pacific.”

In addition, the alliance is set to create the so-called SSN AUKUS class nuclear-powered submarines which will be based on the British next-generation nuclear attack submarine designs and, at the same time, will incorporate “critical cutting-edge” Virginia class technology.

These new SSN AUKUS subs will be built in both the UK and Australia and are due to be delivered to the British and Australian Royal Navies in the 2030s and the 2040s, respectively.

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US Poised to Share Critical Technologies With Australia

The Pentagon’s three legislative proposals submitted on May 2 (and released later in the month) shows that the Department of Defense is seeking to give a substantial boost to the US submarine industrial base (SIB) and accept payments from the government of Australia for that purpose.

As per the Pentagon, the industry has suffered from “extended reductions in workload” over two decades, adding that the AUKUS deal requires enhancing naval shipyards and a transition to “round-the-clock operations.”

A second legislative proposal requested Congressional authorization for the transfer of “up to two Virginia class submarines to the Government of Australia” “without a deadline to consummate the transfers and without specifying the specific vessels to be transferred.” As per DoD, this “flexibility” is necessary because the transfers will be conditioned on Canberra’s own readiness “to safely and effectively operate such vessels.”

A Kunpeng 920 chip is displayed during an unveiling ceremony in Shenzhen, China, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. Chinese telecom giant Huawei unveiled a processor chip for data centers and cloud computing as it expands into an emerging global market despite Western warnings the company might be a security risk.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.04.2023

Australia Says US’ Tech Edge Against PRC ‘Totally Gone’ in Some Areas, Urges AUKUS to Pool Resources

In addition, the document sought waiving the certification that “transfer of the submarines will not affect the ability to defend the United States,” because American nuclear subs are meant to be used by Washington’s close ally “to maintain our collective defense.”

The Pentagon legislative proposals came after US President Joe Biden announced his plans to add Australia as a “domestic source” within the framework of Title III of the Defense Production Act (DPA). The DPA was adopted by the US Congress in 1950 to provide authorities to the president to ensure the supply of materials and services necessary for national defense. As per the US media, adding Australia to the DPA will allow the US to provide grants to Australian industries under the technology-sharing provision of AUKUS, known as Pillar II.

“Doing so would streamline technological and industrial base collaboration, accelerate and strengthen AUKUS implementation, and build new opportunities for United States investment in the production and purchase of Australian critical minerals, critical technologies, and other strategic sectors,” Biden stated on May 20.

FILE - In this file photo provided by U.S. Navy, the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Missouri (SSN 780) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, Sept. 1, 2021. The foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia expressed concern Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, that Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S. in a security alliance may increase the rivalry of major powers in Southeast Asia - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2023

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AUKUS Nuclear U-Boat Deal Sets Dangerous Proliferation Precedent

However, the problem is that Aussies will acquire critical nuclear technologies while remaining unaccountable for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, international observers warn.

Thus, since September 2021, Western think tanks, including the Carnegie Endowment and the Chatham House (also known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs), have repeatedly argued that the AUKUS submarine deal is “bad” for nuclear non-proliferation.

Western scholars drew attention to the fact that Australia may become the first non-nuclear-weapon state using a loophole that allows the nation to remove nuclear material from the IAEA safeguards. Normalizing this practice could create a damaging precedent encouraging some other non-nuclear states to use naval reactor programs as cover for the development of nuclear weapons, experts warned.

Furthermore, even though the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) does not prevent non-nuclear weapon states from building nuclear-powered vessels, the problem is that the IAEA will not be able to verify what exactly Australia is doing with nuclear materials, due to the fact that the exact location of Australian-operated nuclear submarines would be kept secret.

Meanwhile, in the 2040s, Australia is expected to start building its own nuclear-powered submarines which makes the IAEA’s approval for these plans “essential”, insisted international observers.

This December 10, 2018, file photo provided by the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shows the launch of the military's land-based Aegis missile defense testing system, that later intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.03.2023

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AUKUS: Part of US Growing Deterrence in Asia Pacific

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin was quoted by the Chinese press as saying that the amount of weapons-grade nuclear materials the US and the UK are about to provide to Australia would be enough to manufacture up to 64 to 80 nuclear weapons.

Wang reiterated that the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal sets a dangerous international precedent and called upon the US, the UK and Australia to take the concerns of the international community into account and cease their nuclear submarine cooperation.

Still, it appears unlikely that the US, the UK and Australia will lend a sympathetic ear to Chinese and ASEAN calls, especially given that the trilateral alliance is aimed at deterring the People’s Republic of China, as per Pentagon statements.
On April 18, 2023, Admiral John C. Aquilino, United States Navy Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command, testified before the US House Armed Services Committee emphasizing the necessity of enhanced deterrence in the Asia-Pacific region specifically against China, Russia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin gestures during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Friday, July 24, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.06.2023

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Aquilino noted that USINDOPACOM was closing ranks with AUKUS, the Quad diplomatic partnership and Five Eyes Anglophone intelligence organization in order to “execute security cooperation activities, training, and exercises to strengthen those relationships, build partner capacity, and enhance interoperability.”

The commander also placed emphasis on so-called “clusters” in the Asia Pacific where “forward-based and rotational joint forces armed with lethal capabilities” will be located, namely: the Guam cluster; the Japan cluster; the Philippines cluster; and the Australia cluster.

While touching upon AUKUS’ efforts, the INDOPACOM commander placed emphasis “on building trilateral capabilities in areas of shared interest including undersea warfare, cyber, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing to provide pivotal, future high-end warfighting and enhance our combined force posture.”

On top of that, Aquilino claimed that “a multipolar system” is benefitting “authoritarian regimes.”

Judging from Pentagon documents and US legislative initiatives, Washington remains determined to continue the militarization of the Asia-Pacific zone to preserve its dominance in the region, which means that China and ASEAN’s concerns that the Pacific may turn into an “ocean of storms” could be well justified.

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