Published: 09:36, March 16, 2023 | Updated: 18:21, March 16, 2023
AUKUS nations urged to fulfill non-proliferation obligations
By Xinhua

US President Joe Biden (middle) announces details of a submarine deal under the AUKUS pact after meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Naval Base Point Loma, March 13, 2023, in San Diego. (PHOTO / AP)

BEIJING – China on Wednesday urged the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to earnestly fulfill their non-proliferation obligations and refrain from undermining the authority and efficacy of the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the remarks while replying to a query related to AUKUS cooperation.

According to reports, the US, the UK and Australia announced the pathway to nuclear submarine cooperation on March 14. The three countries said they are committed to ensuring the highest non-proliferation standards are met, and would negotiate with the IAEA on safeguards arrangements.

In a statement, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the agency will consult with Australia to make an arrangement under Article 14 of Australia's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to enable the Agency to meet its technical safeguards objectives for Australia.

China is gravely concerned about Grossi's latest statement in relation to the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation and firmly opposed to the US, the UK and Australia's coercing the IAEA Secretariat into endorsement on the safeguards issues, Wang said during a press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Subs deal puts AUKUS on 'wrong path'

The three countries asserted they will fulfill nuclear non-proliferation commitments, yet this is nothing but a high-sounding rhetoric to deceive the world, he said.

An arrangement reached between Australia and the agency (International Atomic Energy Agency) invoking Article 14 would set an egregious precedent. This concerns the interest of all IAEA member states.

Wang Wenbin, Spokesperson, Foreign Ministry, China

Saying that the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation marks the first time in history for nuclear weapon states to transfer naval nuclear propulsion reactors and large amounts of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium to a non-nuclear weapon state, Wang pointed out that there is nothing in the current IAEA safeguards system that can ensure effective safeguards, and there is no guarantee that these nuclear materials will not be diverted by Australia to build nuclear weapons.

Such cooperation poses serious nuclear proliferation risks, and is in contravention of the object and purpose of the NPT and deals a blow to the international non-proliferation regime, he added.

The AUKUS countries and the IAEA Secretariat have no right to make a deal between themselves on the safeguards issues in relation to AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation, said the spokesperson.

What the three countries really want is the IAEA's exemption of safeguards for Australia's nuclear submarines, which runs counter to what they said about setting the highest non-proliferation standards, he said.

"They claimed that Article 14 of the Agency's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) allows for non-application of safeguards for the use of nuclear material in a non-proscribed military activity. However, the international community has not reached any consensus on the definition of such military activity and there are huge divergences on the applicability of Article 14.”

Noting that all these are widely perceived as outstanding issues in the field of international nuclear arms control, he said the US, the UK, Australia and the IAEA Secretariat have no right whatsoever to make interpretations of their own.

Wang stressed that safeguards issues related to nuclear submarine cooperation should be jointly discussed and decided by the international community.

"An arrangement reached between Australia and the agency invoking Article 14 would set an egregious precedent. This concerns the interest of all IAEA member states," he said.

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He said the safeguards issues involved in nuclear submarine cooperation should be discussed and agreed upon by all interested IAEA member states through an intergovernmental process, taking into account the agency's previous practice of strengthening the safeguards system. Pending the consensus reached by all IAEA member states, the IAEA Secretariat should not reach any deal with Australia between themselves.

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, speaks at a press conference in Beijing, China, on Feb 23, 2023. (PHOTO / FOREIGN MINISTRY, CHINA)

"We also urge the IAEA Secretariat to perform its duties strictly in accordance with its mandate and not to endorse the act of nuclear proliferation by the three countries," said Wang.

In the meantime, China calls on all IAEA member states to actively promote the intergovernmental process, find a solution to the safeguards issues in relation to the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation, safeguard the international nuclear non-proliferation regime with the NPT as the cornerstone, and maintain international peace and security, he said.

US ‘drama for democracy’

Facts have repeatedly proven that the drama for democracy orchestrated by the US is never a boon but a bane for the world, said Wang.

"This so-called 'Summit for Democracy' is against democracy in essence," he said about the second "Summit for Democracy" scheduled to be held at the end of March.

If the US democracy fails to win the trust of its own people, how can the US think it has the right to lecture other countries on democracy.

Wang Wenbin

He said the summit blatantly drew an ideological line between countries and created division in the world. It was a preposterous show in violation of the spirit of democracy and exposed the US hegemony in the guise of democracy, which has been criticized and opposed by many countries.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, only about one fifth of Americans say they trust their government, one of the lowest in history. Sixty-five percent say most political candidates run for office to serve their own personal interests. According to a report released by Germany-based Dalia Research and the Alliance of Democracies, less than 50 percent of Americans surveyed think their country is democratic and 43 percent of respondents globally think democracy in their countries is threatened by the US, said Wang.

READ MORE: AUKUS submarine deal raises proliferation questions, says Kremlin

“If the US democracy fails to win the trust of its own people, how can the US think it has the right to lecture other countries on democracy," said Wang.

The US has practiced a "Neo-Monroe Doctrine" in Latin America, instigated "color revolutions" in Eurasia, and orchestrated the "Arab Spring" in West Asia and North Africa, constantly bringing chaos, livelihood woes and human rights disasters to many countries, he said, adding that this is just one of the many textbook examples of how the US democracy destabilizes the world.