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AUKUS Deal Lacks Transparency, Undermines Non-proliferation Regime

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The AUKUS nuclear submarine deal between Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (U.S.) lacks transparency, increases proliferation risks, and poses severe challenges to the non-proliferation regime and regional security and stability, a Russian expert told Xinhua on Wednesday.

The AUKUS deal goes against the spirit of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and international non-proliferation regime, Anton Khlopkov, director of the Russian think tank Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS), told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a seminar on the AUKUS held in Vienna.

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 U.S. and the UK.

Khlopkov said that although AUKUS countries promised transparency in their public statements, there has been a “lack of information” and a “lack of transparency” regarding the trilateral deal.

He also noted that while the three countries claimed they wanted to set a precedent for other countries which may pursue nuclear submarines in the future, they have been trying to invoke Article 14 of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement to negotiate relevant arrangements with the Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “behind closed doors.”

Meanwhile, they have excluded other countries and experts from the discussion of the arrangements. “Those approaches could undermine not only the NPT, but more important, the credibility of the IAEA,” he warned.

The Russian expert warned that the deal may stimulate the interest of other states without nuclear weapons to build nuclear submarines and prompt a potential arms race in the region.

During the seminar, Khlopkov called on all countries to collectively address the risks of the AUKUS submarine deal “through open and inclusive dialogues and cooperation” and “root for collectively found solutions” to uphold the international non-proliferation regime.

He also called on the three AUKUS countries to increase transparency regarding their submarine cooperation, and advised IAEA member states and the IAEA Board of Governors to participate in the development of the AUKUS-related safeguards arrangements.

At Wednesday’s seminar, CENESS and the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association (CACDA) released a joint report on the serious risks of the AUKUS deal. 

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