Nuclear Submarines in Australia Would Push APAC Towards New Spiral of Militarization
© AP Photo / Lt. Rebecca RebarichIn this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming approaches Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Jan. 9, 2008.
© AP Photo / Lt. Rebecca Rebarich
The establishment of the AUKUS military bloc will lead to increased tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan's support for Australia's decision to purchase nuclear-powered submarines would hit its relations with China. AUKUS could create many problems for Australia.
The leaders of the AUKUS alliance - the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom - unveiled details of a three-phase plan to provide Australia with conventional nuclear submarines on Monday after a meeting in San Diego, US.
Specifically, the plan involves the deployment of four American and one British submarine to Australia by 2027 as a first step, as well as the creation of the necessary infrastructure and training of Australian personnel. Subsequently, Australia will receive several additional submarines from the bloc's partners. The ultimate goal of AUKUS is to jointly develop and build a new type of nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine, including in Australia. Joseph Biden, Anthony Albanese and Rishi Sunak said in a joint statement that the deal “expands our individual and collective undersea presence in the Indo-Pacific, and contributes to global security and stability.”
The transfer of submarines to Australia poses a serious threat to China's security, Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies at East China Normal University, told Sputnik:
"The US is gradually implementing its Indo-Pacific strategy. To this end, the US is creating a political alliance through the QUAD mechanism, while the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) aims at the economic suppression and containment of China”.
According to the expert, AUKUS plays the same role of deterring China, at the military level. Australia will be equipped with American nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines capable of carrying long-range cruise missiles. The weapons are designed to exert pressure and undoubtedly pose a serious threat to China's security, Chen Hong said.
"The AUKUS project seriously violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The risks associated with the use of nuclear-powered submarines are enormous. For example, an accident involving a nuclear leak could contaminate the water resources of the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the South Pacific is a nuclear-free zone, and New Zealand and the South Pacific island nations strongly object to Australia's possible possession of nuclear weapons. Australia is trying to strengthen its role as a strategic country in the region with nuclear submarines, but this behavior only increases instability in the region," the Chinese expert stressed.
Japan was one of the first allies and partner members of AUKUS to support Australia's decision to purchase nuclear submarines. In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said as much in a telephone conversation with Anthony Albanese following the trilateral summit in San Diego. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida echoed almost verbatim the sentiments previously expressed by AUKUS members regarding the agreement. He said that Japan supports the steps taken by AUKUS as they contribute to regional peace and stability amid an increasingly challenging security environment in the Indo-Pacific region.
Valery Kistanov, the head of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Sputnik that he expects AUKUS' actions to have exactly the opposite consequences for the region:
“Of course, this would have the opposite effect to that predicted by Kishida. Not stabilization, but destabilization of the region. This would lead China to respond appropriately. Of course, all this will affect China's relations with Japan and Australia. Japan is creating and supporting all kinds of anti-Chinese coalitions and groups to form a network around China. This includes the Quad, the Japan-US Security Treaty.”
According to Valery Kistanov, Japan is trying to involve both NATO and AUKUS in its military strategy. Japan has unconditionally supported the formal creation of AUKUS and now the decision to station nuclear submarines in Australia. Because of its geopolitical position, Australia is a very important anchor point for deterring a growing China in the APAC region, he said.
Japan was quick to support the delivery of US and British nuclear submarines to Australia even though it was once interested in military-technical cooperation with Canberra. Japan’s desire to please the US outweighs its own interests, said expert Valery Kistanov.
“Ironically, Japan once hoped to sell submarines to Australia. It has good submarines, considered some of the best in the world for quietness. However, Japan lost the bid to the French, and the Americans and the British pushed out the French. Now Japan prefers not to remember this fact. Japan supported the AUKUS plan. In doing so, it took a new step in realizing the American concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. By this, Japan, like the US, means the containment of China in the East and South China Seas.”
The AUKUS project is valued at approximately 368 billion Australian dollars, or 0.15 percent of Australia's GDP. At the trilateral meeting in San Diego, Australia's Prime Minister thanked the United States for sharing its nuclear engine technology for the first time in 65 years. Anthony Albanese also said the agreement “represents the biggest single investment in Australia's defense capability in all of our history.”
According to expert Chen Hong, the project has too many drawbacks for Australia to benefit from it.
“Buying nuclear submarines would do Australia more harm than good. It will have to invest a lot of money in this project, which is essentially an implementation of the US strategy. The biggest hidden danger comes from the United States. There will be a presidential election in 2024. If they change US policy, Australia's investment in nuclear submarines, human resource and infrastructure could be for naught. If Australia stops seeing China as a target, China will stop seeing it as a target that requires vigilance. In other words, Australia's behavior has brought unnecessary threats to Australia. If the Australian government pushes the situation to deteriorate relations with China again because of AUKUS, it will not only damage the long-term development of bilateral relations, but also fail to meet the modern requirements of peace and stability.”
The joint statement by the US, Britain and Australia shows that the three countries are going further and further down a misguided and dangerous path, pursuing their own geopolitical interests and completely ignoring the concerns of the international community, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing on Tuesday.
The US-UK-Australia nuclear submarine cooperation deal involves the transfer of large quantities of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium from nuclear-weapon states to a non-nuclear-weapon state. This poses a serious risk of nuclear proliferation and violates the goals of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Claims by the three countries that they adhere to the highest standards of nuclear non-proliferation are utter hypocrisy, the Chinese official said.