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US, UK aid to Australia's acquisition of nuclear submarines 'sheer act of nuclear proliferation': Chinese envoy

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-09-17 09:03

Wang Qun (R, Front), Chinese envoy to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna, is interviewed after a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, on June 12, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

VIENNA -- A Chinese diplomat on Thursday expressed China's "grave concern" at the pronounced assistance by the United States and the United Kingdom to Australia's acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.

Addressing the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting here, Wang Qun, Chinese envoy to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna, described the trilateral move as "sheer act of nuclear proliferation".

The U.S. and the UK, both nuclear weapon states, and are state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which prevents proliferation of nuclear weapons and technologies, the core obligation for its state parties, Wang stated.

He stressed that such assistance "will apparently give rise to proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies by openly providing assistance to Australia", a non-nuclear weapon state, in its acquisition and building of the nuclear-powered submarine.

"This contradicts the purpose, objective and core obligation of the NPT to the detriment of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime with the NPT at its core and on-going international efforts on this front," Wang stated.

"While firmly safeguarding the validity of the international non-proliferation regime, China wishes to register its grave concern at the development," Wang said.

"In the meantime, we believe that, it is the responsibility of IAEA, as an international organization mandated to implement NPT non-proliferation regime, to openly express its solemn position at the trilateral act by the U.S., the UK and Australia, which contradict their obligations under the NPT," Wang stated.

Wang also stressed that, such an act of nuclear proliferation "will give rise to serious negative implications on the on-going international efforts to address the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula as well as the Iranian nuclear issue".

"Given the ongoing review and discussions of the Korean Peninsula and Iranian nuclear issues at the IAEA Board of Governors and the General Conference, it is essential that all members of the Board and international organizations including IAEA, make solemn position on the trilateral collaboration among the U.S., UK and Australia in helping Australia develop nuclear-powered submarine, in promotion of the full and effective implementation of international non-proliferation obligations under the NPT by all countries," he stated.

Chief of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) General Angus Campbell and Prime Minister Scott Morrison attend a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia September 16, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Exporting highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia has shown that the U.S. and the UK have "once again adopted a double standard on nuclear export", and "have taken nuclear export as a means of their geo-political game", Wang pointed out.

Wang said that, in the meantime, it is "utterly irresponsible" for Australia, as a non-nuclear state and state party to the NPT and South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, to import nuclear submarine technology with strategic militarily value.

"The international community, including neighboring countries, has every reason to question Australia's sincerity in implementation of nuclear non-proliferation commitment under the relevant treaties," he said.

The trilateral collaboration by the U.S., the UK and Australia "will seriously impair the regional peace and stability, escalate arms race, to the detriment of international peace and security," Wang added.

Wang said that China will closely follow its development and reserve the right to make further responses. In the meantime, China will call on the international community to "work together to check such a dangerous act".

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, governments of the U.S., the UK and Australia announced the creation of a new trilateral security partnership called "AUKUS," which will help "significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defense capabilities".

The first initiative under AUKUS will be the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia, and the three countries will spend as many as 18 months discussing how this capability will be delivered, according to the statement.

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