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Chinese FM Spokesperson: IAEA’s Setting up of the New Agenda Item of AUKUS Nuclear Submarine Cooperation Reflects the Serious Concerns of Agency’s Members

2021-11-30 13:13

At a regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China on 29 November, spokesperson Wang Wenbin answered a question about the trilateral nuclear submarine cooperation under AUKUS.

Journalist: The IAEA Board of Governors Meeting recently discussed the new agenda suggested by China on the trilateral nuclear submarine cooperation under AUKUS. After the meeting, the permanent representatives of China and Russia to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna held a press conference and took questions from the press. Could you share more details on this?

Wang Wenbin: On November 26, the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting for the first time held dedicated discussions on the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation, a new agenda suggested by China.

The Chinese representative elaborated on China’s position at the meeting, pointing out that drawing ideological lines, the US, the UK and Australia have set up a new military bloc, heightened the risk of military conflicts, and will increase geopolitical tensions. It is a typical illustration of the Cold War mentality. The US and the UK, two nuclear weapon states, are set to transfer tons of nuclear weapons materials to Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state. The existing IAEA safeguards arrangement cannot effective monitor the transfer. This is in explicit violation of the object and purposes of the NPT. The trilateral cooperation exposes the three countries’ flagrant double standard on the nuclear non-proliferation issue and will spur other non-nuclear-weapon states to follow suit and cause seriously negative impact to the settlement of regional nuclear hotspot issues.

The Chinese side raised more than 50 questions for deliberations in the political, legal and technical aspects and pointed out the illegality and danger of the trilateral cooperation. We hope that the US, the UK and Australia will give explicit answers to these questions. China also proposes establishing a special committee open to all Member States of the IAEA to properly seek a solution acceptable to all parties. China maintains that, pending a proper formula worked out by all, the US, the UK and Australia should not go ahead with relevant cooperation and the Secretariat of the IAEA should not proceed on its own to negotiate the relevant safeguards arrangement with the three countries.

The Chinese side’s statement was warmly received by members of the IAEA Board of Governors. A dozen countries, including Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran and Cuba spoke up in support of China’s position and propositions. Many countries also expressed concerns over the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation.

At the joint press conference after the meeting, the Chinese and Russian representatives reiterated that the trilateral nuclear submarine cooperation under AUKUS endangers the integrity of the NPT, the global strategic equilibrium and post-war international security order. The Russian side noted that if Australia obtains a large amount of weapon-grade nuclear materials, that will seriously impact the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. AUKUS cooperation not only violates the relevant norms of comprehensive safeguards agreements, but will also have a serious negative impact on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. The three countries concealed the progress of nuclear submarine cooperation from the international community, which is extremely non-transparent. They must report the relevant situation in a timely manner.

I need to stress that the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting’s setting up of the new agenda item of the AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation reflects the serious concerns of the agency’s members over this matter, which marks a right step forward towards the proper settlement of the issue. China urges the three countries to heed the call of the international community, rescind their wrong decision, set store by their non-proliferation obligations and do more that is conducive to regional peace and stability.

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