Intergovernmental discourse needed to address AUKUS-related Risks – Envoy

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

A Chinese envoy on Friday called for intergovernmental discussions at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to address the proliferation risks posed by the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal.

Li Song, China’s permanent representative to the IAEA, told a meeting of the IAEA board of governors that the AUKUS collaboration has a serious impact on the security of the world and the Asia-Pacific region, and poses grave challenges to the international non-proliferation regime and the IAEA safeguards system.

“Such cooperation runs counter to the purpose and objectives of the NPT (the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and is a typical act of double standard,” Li said.

Under the trilateral AUKUS alliance, which was announced in September 2021, Australia will be able to build nuclear-powered submarines with technology provided by the United States and the United Kingdom.

Li said that the AUKUS deal, which involves political, security, legal and technical issues, will create an important precedent and have a significant impact on the improvement and development of the IAEA safeguards system and relevant safeguards practices.

“All these are major issues that must be taken seriously, considered deeply, and handled properly by (the IAEA) member states,” Li said.

The Chinese envoy noted that the development and improvement of the IAEA safeguards system has historically been achieved through consensus-based and member state-driven processes, with broad participation of member states.

“Such a tradition has ensured that the IAEA safeguards system keeps pace with the time, on the basis of general acceptance and support of member states,” Li said. “Upholding this tradition is in the common interests of all member states.”

Li stressed that before the IAEA member states reach a consensus on the AUKUS issue, relevant safeguards arrangements should not be interpreted and decided only by the AUKUS countries and the IAEA Secretariat.

“We believe that member states have enough wisdom, patience and determination to properly respond to the AUKUS-related proliferation risks through intergovernmental discussions,” Li said.

Friday’s IAEA board meeting marked the 11th time that the AUKUS issue was on the formal agenda of the quarterly meeting at China’s proposal.

During the meeting, representatives from Russia, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Iran and Cuba also voiced support for the proposal of further intergovernmental discussions over the AUKUS issue at the IAEA board meetings and general conferences.

Those representatives agreed that the AUKUS deal involves severe proliferation risks, and should be properly addressed through an intergovernmental process with the participation of the member states, instead of being decided behind closed doors by the AUKUS countries and the IAEA Secretariat.

Li told reporters after the meeting that the AUKUS deal concerns the common interests of all IAEA member states, and that the AUKUS countries should not force other member states to take sides or politicize the states which express different views.

Noting that more and more IAEA member states, having recognized the complexity and gravity of the AUKUS issue, have participated in the discussion processes, the Chinese envoy urged the AUKUS countries to respond to the concerns of the international community and conduct dialogue and communication with all parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

China will continue to push forward the intergovernmental discussion processes responsibly and uphold the authority and efficacy of the international non-proliferation regime and the IAEA safeguards system, Li added.

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