GLOBALink | AUKUS nuclear submarine deal sets bad precedent, adds proliferation risk, U.S. expert warns

Source: Xinhua| 2021-10-07 10:35:55|Editor: huaxia

The recently announced security agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia, known as AUKUS, which involves providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarine know-how, has set a bad precedent for the non-proliferation regime, Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear policy expert and former U.S. Department of State official, has warned.

"It sets a bad precedent for other countries to also say they need to produce enriched uranium for naval propulsion," Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Americas, told Xinhua in a recent interview. "It has global ramifications for proliferation that are worrisome."

The AUKUS pact exploited a loophole in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which "does allow for enriched uranium to be taken out of safeguards if it is for naval propulsion," said Fitzpatrick.

"It's never been done before by any other non-nuclear armed state," he said. "So this deal is taking advantage of a loophole, but also shining light on the loophole."

While noting the United States has held fast to its position of restricting the spread of enrichment technology because uranium enrichment, a process necessary to create an effective nuclear fuel, is one of the paths to nuclear weapons, the expert said that "it was a break from previous policy" when it agreed to share nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia.

For another, it sent shockwaves across the Asia-Pacific region, triggering concerns that more countries would follow suit and seek to acquire nuclear-powered submarine technology.

Fitzpatrick said he thinks "there is a proliferation risk" in the efforts to share nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia.

"Doing a deal with Australia certainly does give other American allies a sense that they should consider as well," he said. "That's part of the precedent I'm worried about."

The expert also expressed concern that the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal could intensify the arms race in the region, arguing that "when one side of a power balance increases its power, the other side often takes corresponding steps of its own."

Produced by Xinhua Global Service

KEY WORDS: AUKUS,U.S.,Australia,nuclear submarine