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An Advancement Of The AUKUS: A New Submarine Deal Reached Between Australia, The UK, And The US

On March 13, American president Joe Biden met in California with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. A deal for a submarine was made, in which Australia would get its first nuclear-powered submarines, at least three, from the US. 


The deal serves important military and informative purposes. The agreement was made to create a new powerful enough fleet to counter China’s military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific area. Based on that, the deal, along with other advancements of the three countries in the area, is anticipated to attract collaborative efforts from other countries in the area.


China has managed to expand its influence among the island states in the Western Pacific Ocean. In the past two decades, more countries in the area shifted their recognition as the sole legitimate government of China from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). More economic and military deals were negotiated between China and some of the island states. Both are exemplified by the Southern Pacific island state of Solomon Islands, which recognized the PRC in 2019 and afterward received financial aids from China and signed a military cooperation pact with China. All these alarmed the US and Australia. The recent deal between the three countries marks their newest efforts to contain the expanding influence of China.


The submarine deal certainly resulted in strong objections from the Chinese government and people. Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of China, said that China firmly opposed the support of the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) coerced by the AUKUS. The supervision by IAEA cannot be effectively enforced on the nuclear materials transacted under the deal, which, Wang worried, might be used in constructing nuclear weapons. This risks uncontrolled nuclear proliferation. 


More specifically, as Wang continued, the AUKUS referred to the fourteenth clause of the IAEA Safeguards Agreement that the unforbidden military operations are free from the IAEA supervision. However, the legal interpretation of the term “unforbidden military operations” is disputed among countries around the globe, which neither the US nor the UK or Australia has the right to singlehandedly settle. This is a malign premise set up by Australia, Wang criticized, which severely injured the behalf of all member states of the IAEA. Wang upheld more consensual approaches in this matter rather than private manipulation by Australia and the IAEA after the scene.


In the end, Wang urged the participation of other member states to oversee the whole process and to refrain from endorsing the legality of the submarine deal. The Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons should be upheld as the foundation of international peace and security, urged Wang. 


On Chinese social media, the netizens pointed out that Australia is becoming a scapegoat being taken advantage of by the UK and the US in their competition with China. According to them, Australia bears most of the risks and costs in the whole deal. “It is an Alliance of Failure,” one of the netizens commented.


Outside of China, the deal faced skepticism as well. Paul Keating, the former Australian prime minister that served from 1991 to 1996, strongly disagreed with the deal. He argued that the current prime minister Anthony Albanese was played by the US and the UK. As reported by Chinese media, Paul Keating sneered that “China after all will not devour Australia” in his illustration of the unnecessity of the deal.


 


Controversies soon brewed around the globe, and as indicated by the ongoing trend, the submarine deal is likely not the last step in the advancement of AUKUS. More importantly, reactions from the Chinese side would likely ensue shortly as well. How the matter of China-West competition would evolve remains full of uncertainty.


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Tags: China AUKUS Indo-Pacific area US-China relations



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