The Asia-Pacific region is about to fall for an arms race in connection with Australia's decision to acquire nuclear submarines under a new pact with the United States and Great Britain, which local environmentalists call 'floating Chernobyls'.
On September 16, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled an agreement on the transition to nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the United States and Great Britain. However, Australia decided to refuse from its earlier agreements with France.
The deal to acquire nuclear submarines, concluded under the new AUKUS pact, used to be considered unthinkable from both political and practical points of view. Canberra did not even expect either the United States or the UK to share their nuclear technology, and feared public outcry against the presence of nuclear facilities in a nuclear-free country.
Australia will now become the only country in the world that does not possess nuclear weapons, but has nuclear submarines.
Morrison said that they would be designed over the next 18 months and built in Adelaide. Officials said that the new submarines would be quieter and more powerful than Australia's existing submarine fleet and that they would deter China's ambitions in the Far East.
Adam Bandt, the leader of the Australian Greens, said that the decision to procure nuclear submarines from the US and the UK was "one of the worst security decisions in decades."
"It's a dangerous decision that will make Australia less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities," he told the ABC on Thursday.
The prime minister, he added, will need to explain what may happen in the event of an accident at a nuclear reactor in the center of an Australian city.
In his opinion, escalating tensions between China and Australia will increase the risk of a nuclear war, which will put Australia on the line of fire.
As a regional power, Australia should stick to an independent course to de-escalate the conflict in the region, the politician also noted.
He hopes to veto the deal in the parliament with the help of the Labor Party.
Hugh White, a Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, said that one should expect China's response to the deal. Such a major deal, he said, will change Australia's approach to the region. The trilateral pact would serve US interests by giving the key ally more powerful submarines in the Pacific. In the escalating rivalry between America and China, Australia supports the United States and hopes that the Americans will win, Professor White believes. At the same time, he added, if one looks 10 or 20 years ahead, USA's dominance over China does not seem to be possible.
The expert explained that the trilateral nature of the deal is based on the fact that the UK needed permission from the US to deliver top-secret nuclear technology. This showed how seriously America is determined to flex its muscles in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia's relations with China have become increasingly strained after Canberra demanded an investigation into the causes of the COVID pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. China responded by banning exports of coal, copper and sugar from Australia.
A senior Chinese diplomat, deputy ambassador of China to Canberra, Wang Xining, warned Australia in April by saying that a superpower is "not a cow that can be at first milked and then slaughtered."
"China is not a cow. I don't think anybody should fancy the idea to milk China when she's in her prime and plot to slaughter it in the end. So we are open for collaboration and cooperation, but we'll be very strong in defending our national interest,” Wang Xining said. "Australia connived with the United States in a very unethical, illegal, immoral suppression of Chinese companies,” he said.
Andrey Koshkin, an expert at the Association of Military Political Scientists, told Pravda. Ru, that the Americans did not like it when suddenly Australia "began to be courted by the French."
According to the expert, the United States wants to make Australia to be on duty to guard Antarctica and oppose China.
"The world is changing so dynamically, so Australia may eventually agree to run errands for the USA," Andrey Koshkin told Pravda. Ru.
A quadripartite agreement between Japan, the United States, India and Australia is to be signed on September 24. When signing the agreement, the countries will pledge to join their forces against China and partly Russia as well.
"The United States of America is drawing Australia into the process of creating the Asian version of NATO. The ultimate goal of this project is to contain China and, to a certain extent, Russia in the Far East," the expert noted.
China is already outraged about the prospects for military-political alliances to appear in the Indo-Pacific region.
"China will defend itself. Indonesia is already outraged. New Zealand says that it will not let those submarines pass, and there will be other reactions coming from Asia soon, because the focus of attention of the United States of America is shifting from the European continent to the Asian one," Andrey Koshkin said in an interview with Pravda.Ru.
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern said Thursday, September 16, that the country would not lift the ban on nuclear vessels entering its waters after Australia decided to build a fleet of nuclear submarines in partnership with the United States and Britain.
"Certainly they couldn't come into our internal waters. No vessels that are partially or fully powered by nuclear energy is able to enter our internal borders," she said. "This is not a treaty level arrangement. It does not change our existing relationship including Five Eyes or our close partnership with Australia on defence matters," she added.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called US actions "highly irresponsible." According to him, Canberra is "solely responsibility for the current difficult situation."
The deal seriously undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race and undermines the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the Chinese official said. The international community, including neighboring countries, has good reasons to doubt Australia's sincerity, he noted.
An editorial published in China's Global Times, described the pact as "another hostile signal" to China.
It is worthy of note that China has six nuclear-powered submarines art the moment, but this number will be increased to 16 by 2040.
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