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AUKUS a threat to non-proliferation regime: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-11-28 18:41

Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Rankin is seen during AUSINDEX 21, a biennial maritime exercise between the Royal Australian Navy and the Indian Navy in Darwin, Australia, Sept 5, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Wednesday set up a new agenda item on AUKUS, the trilateral security alliance the United States has formed with the United Kingdom and Australia, to address the grave concerns of the international community.

The move, at China's suggestion, is intended to safeguard the rules-based international order as the transfer of nuclear materials in the context of AUKUS falls within the scope of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and should be put under international scrutiny.

In mid-September, the US, the UK and Australia announced the establishment of AUKUS, under which the US and UK will transfer technology to Australia to enable it to build nuclear-powered submarines. Members of the international community, China and Russia included, immediately aired their concerns about the deal undermining the non-proliferation regime, regional security and strategic stability.

As Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, pointed out, all US nuclear submarines use weapon-grade highly-enriched uranium. If the trilateral nuclear submarine cooperation proceeds, Australia will obtain a large amount of weapon-grade nuclear materials, which will seriously impact the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Hence, AUKUS not only poses a severe challenge to the integrity, effectiveness and authority of the global non-proliferation regime with the non-proliferation treaty as its cornerstone, it also affects the post-war international security order.

As the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA should focus on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons as mandated. It is the responsibility and obligation of the member states of the agency to conduct in-depth discussions on issues concerning AUKUS through an intergovernmental process.

As the world is still trying to resolve the Iranian and other nuclear issues, the IAEA's scrutiny on the AUKUS deal would only have a positive impact on cracking those issues as it sends an explicit message to the world that the international community is sincere about upholding the international non-proliferation regime to the letter.

AUKUS is just another example of how some Western countries touting the rules-based international order, habitually put their own strategic gains above international norms and never hesitate to defy international treaties to serve their own interests.

The NPT and other relevant treaties, such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, are crucial to realizing the global aspiration for a world free of nuclear weapons and thus should allow no compromise or violations.

It is hoped the international community will continue to work together to defend the purposes of the NPT, safeguard the global non-proliferation regime, and uphold global strategic stability, international peace and security through such platforms as the IAEA.

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