Chinese envoy criticises AUKUS submarine deal at IAEA board meeting

Li Song, China's permanent representative to the IAEA,

9th June 2023 – (Vienna) A Chinese envoy strongly criticised the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal at the board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held on Thursday. Li Song, China’s permanent representative to the IAEA, emphasised that the essence of the deal would transfer tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium from the United States and Britain, both nuclear-weapon states, to their military ally Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Under the trilateral AUKUS alliance, announced in September 2021, Australia can build nuclear-powered submarines with technology provided by the United States and Britain. The Chinese envoy stressed that the AUKUS countries’ strategic military cooperation has severely undermined the international non-proliferation regime and the IAEA’s safeguards system, violating the principles and practices of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Thursday’s meeting marked the eighth consecutive time the IAEA reviewed the AUKUS issue through intergovernmental discussions at China’s proposal. The Chinese envoy noted that the AUKUS submarine collaboration and the three countries’ efforts to politicise the issue at the IAEA and polarise the agency’s member states reflect their Cold War mentality and confrontational blocs.

The AUKUS countries have attempted to depict their nuclear submarine deal as a routine safeguards issue between a non-nuclear-weapon state and the IAEA Secretariat. They have requested the IAEA invoke Article 14 of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement to make safeguards exemption arrangements, which the envoy called “a clandestine move to coerce the IAEA Secretariat into endorsing their cooperation.”

Representatives from more than 20 countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, and Argentina, echoed the position of the Chinese envoy in their speeches at the IAEA board meeting.

The Chinese envoy urged the AUKUS countries to address the international community’s concerns with concrete actions, fulfill their non-proliferation obligations, and maintain candid and transparent communication with other parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect. He also expressed hope that IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi will fully respect and objectively present the different views and concerns of all parties.

China will continue to practice genuine multilateralism, uphold the authority of international non-proliferation, safeguard international law and the global system with the United Nations at its core, and oppose a Cold War mentality, bloc confrontation, and double standards, the envoy said.