AUKUS: Sword of Damocles that Hanging Over Our Region

China believes that nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damocles hanging over mankind, should be completely prohibited and thoroughly destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons.

by Qi Zhenhong

Recently, the United States, Britain and Australia announced the establishment of AUKUS, a trilateral security pact which will provide Australia with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. This is like holding up a "Sword of Damocles" on the heads of countries in the Pacific-Indian Ocean regional countries, which has aroused widespread doubts and deep concerns from the international community, and great threat of nuclear proliferation, arms race and more unstable regional and international security situation.

Firstly, the move is a serious violation of the spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which brings great risks of nuclear proliferation. The NPT which entered into effect in 1970, is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime by the international community. However, the Treaty lacks clear provisions regarding the transfer of nuclear reactors for submarines, and the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is unable to verify whether the relevant materials are used to develop nuclear weapons. The United States, Britain, and Australia had exploited these weaknesses. In addition, the American and British nuclear submarines use weapons-grade highly enriched uranium with an abundance of over 90%. Exporting of nuclear submarines to Australia means that a large number of highly sensitive nuclear materials and technologies are transferred without the effective safeguard of IAEA, which will inevitably bring the risk of proliferation of nuclear technologies and nuclear materials. On September 17th, the Indonesian government issued a statement stressed the importance of Australia’s commitment to continue meeting all of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, and called on Australia to maintain its commitment towards regional peace, stability and security.

Secondly, this move may induce a new round of arms race, which will undermine regional prosperity and stability. As a country straddling the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Australia's construction of nuclear submarines in defiance of the world completely violates the commitments it made when signing the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, and also will cause serious breaches in the efforts of ASEAN countries to build nuclear weapon-free zone and the Indian Ocean to create a "Zone of Peace". In addition, AUKUS attempts to engage in maritime hegemony, which may introduce a new round of regional arms race, thus undermining the precious peace situation in the region and casting a shadow over the security, stability and prosperity in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the AUKUS, a security partnership between Australia, Britain and the United States, "undoubtedly" undermines regional stability. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that Indonesia does not want an escalating arms race and power projection in the region that will threaten security and stability. Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressed Malaysia's stance on AUKUS when he received a telephone call from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying it would be a “catalyst for a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific region. As a country within ASEAN, Malaysia holds the principle of maintaining ASEAN as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, and urges all parties to avoid any provocation and arms competition in the region.”

Thirdly, this move promotes barefaced "double-standard" and forms racist "small clique". The United States and Britain launched the notorious Iraq War on the unwarranted charge of suspecting the development of weapons of mass destruction, and do not allow Iran and North Korea to possess nuclear weapons, but turn a blind eye to the development of nuclear weapons by their ally Israel and provide nuclear submarines to another ally Australia. Under the barefaced "double-standard", they piece together the "Anglo-Saxon" military cooperation clique with racism and cold war color, and wantonly played and trampled on international rules. According to the Atlantic Monthly, AUKUS is in effect a new “Anglo” military alliance. “The three nations have fought together for most of the past 100 years and are core members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. The announcement (of AUKUS) only reinforces its belief in the difference between Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world.”

China believes that nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damocles hanging over mankind, should be completely prohibited and thoroughly destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons. China has always maintained its nuclear power at the lowest level required by national security, and has always made every effort to maintain the international non-proliferation system and actively promoted the multilateral arms control process. The establishment of a small security clique by the United States, Britain and Australia, frantically probing at the edge of nuclear proliferation, opening the Pandora's Box of the arms race, and undermining peace and stability in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, is a reversal of history trend, which has already been widely questioned and condemned by the international community including its own country and neighboring countries.

Recently, an American nuclear submarine crashed in the South China Sea and went unreported, a hit and run accident sending out a very realistic warning. Although no nuclear leakage caused by this accident has been confirmed yet, its nature is very serious, and there are great hidden dangers in nuclear proliferation and nuclear safety, which will lead to a nuclear disaster if it is not done well. Sri Lanka is located at the center of Indian Ocean. No matter it’s nuclear submarines frequently entering the Indian Ocean, the nuclear arms race escalating, or some hegemonies ganging up in clique and forcing small and medium-sized countries to take sides, it will inevitably bring huge security risks to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the international community, especially regional countries, should pay serious attention to and resolutely oppose this bad behavior, which seriously undermines regional peace and stability, accelerate the arms race, and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. We should bring the hanging Sword of Damocles back into its sheath, and jointly safeguard international peace, security and stability.

( The writer is the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka)