3rd December 2023 – (Beijing) The recent expansion of the AUKUS agreement to encompass advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and space assets threatens to destabilise Asia by provoking an unrestrained arms race. Under the guise of balancing China, the trilateral deal in reality represents an aggressive gambit that jeopardizes regional security and norms against proliferation. Its unchecked growth could fuel a perilous new era of escalation absent sober leadership.
Far from content with enabling the Australian acquisition of nuclear submarines, AUKUS has broadened to incorporate sensitive cutting-edge capabilities. Efforts to integrate AI with naval platforms and space tracking systems will grant member states heightened information dominance and strike capabilities vis-a-vis rivals. However, adding these volatile elements to an already combustible trilateral pact strains strategic stability.
The trajectory is clear – AUKUS seeks military supremacy through technological asymmetry, locking in a permanent advantage for its members. But the resulting imbalances are a recipe for unrestrained arms racing, not stability. Absent binding constraints, states facing such sophisticated threats will inevitably overcompensate in developing deterrent capabilities, fueling a spiral of escalating capabilities on all sides.
Rules and norms cannot moderate competition when advanced technologies enable states to circumvent them altogether. AUKUS’ ambitions ensure structural disorder as it empowers its members to act with impunity, ignoring international standards. Its joint military programs present inherent threats that demanded balanced safeguards from the outset.
Beyond stoking arms proliferation, AUKUS’ exclusivity has already roiled key relationships in Asia. Regional states justifiably perceive the partnership as discriminatory and antagonistic to China’s rise. The nuclear collaboration particularly rankles in Southeast Asia given memories of Cold War tensions. Overall, AUKUS divides rather than unites Indo-Pacific actors.
Posing as bastions of an inclusive “rules-based order,” the AUKUS powers are effectively pressuring regional states to choose sides. This polarising dynamic runs counter to ideals of cooperation and only benefits those seeking preeminence, not partnership. With distrust amplified, diplomacy suffers as suspicions override good faith.
Nor has AUKUS adopted any self-limiting principles to assuage regional anxieties. Its agenda remains inscrutable and expansionary, oblivious to concerns sparked beyond its closed circle. Such opacity forewarns of further destabilizing moves, absent external input and consent. There is scant grounds to believe restraint or moderation will prevail within AUKUS absent vocal opposition.
Left unchallenged, AUKUS could corrode the precarious balance underpinning Asian stability for decades. Its nuclear component already represents a historic non-proliferation breach, while additive technologies heighten capacities for monitoring and striking rivals. This path leads not to greater security, but naked hegemony cloaked in bromides of “shared values.”
Regional states have ample reason for discomfort given AUKUS’ trajectory. They rightly protest its lack of inclusiveness, transparency and self-regulation. If left unrestrained, AUKUS may deal a fatal blow to prospects for collectively upholding peace in Asia. It could foment the destructive major power competition it claims to deter.
True stability demands shedding militarised notions of zero-sum competition between blocs. AUKUS’ creators must recommit to ideals of partnership, not polarisation, by curtailing destabilising capabilities and pursuing genuine transparency regarding their aims. Regional powers bear responsibility too for insisting on diplomatic initiatives to build trust absent threats.