Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Remarks
2021/09/25

CNR: Some international scholars recently pointed out that the nuclear submarine technologies provided by the US and the UK to Australia may highly likely involve weapon-grade highly-enriched uranium (HEU) of above 93% and have nuclear proliferation risks. Iran's Permanent Representative to Vienna critically said some countries are practicing textbook double standards, as they fall silent about the US and the UK preparing to export HEU to Australia, while pointing fingers at Iranian nuclear activities. What is China's comment?

Zhao Lijian: China believes that concerns of some countries and international scholars about nuclear proliferation risks posed by the nuclear submarine cooperation among the US, the UK and Australia are totally justified and legitimate. The US-UK-Australia cooperation is ill-conceived.

First, the US-UK-Australia cooperation has serious nuclear proliferation risks, and violates the spirit of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). US nuclear submarines is fueled by HEU of above 90%, which is weapon-grade nuclear material. The nuclear submarine export from the US and the UK to Australia, which is a non-nuclear weapon state, means a transfer of highly sensitive nuclear material and relevant technologies and equipment. Besides, the IAEA safeguards mechanism cannot effectively monitor whether Australia would use the HEU for nuclear weapons. All these are clear to the Australian side. But it gave up purchasing conventional submarines to buy nuclear-powered submarines from the US and the UK. What is Australia up to? There should be a big question mark on its sincerity to fulfill non-proliferation obligations as a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.

Second, the US-UK-Australia cooperation only proves again that the US and the UK adopt double standards on the issue of nuclear export, which will gravely undermine the international non-proliferation efforts. The US has long been rejecting HEU export to non-nuclear weapon states to prevent the DPRK and Iran from acquiring HEU, and push for low enrichment of HEU reactors. But the US created exceptions for some countries in order to realize its geopolitical objectives. This nuclear submarine cooperation with Australia is the latest case in point. The move of the three countries will send a wrong message to the world, encourage other non-nuclear weapon states to do the same, and bring far-reaching negative impact on resolving non-proliferation hotspots in the region. Moreover, Australia's introduction of nuclear submarines will undercut the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and ASEAN countries' efforts to build a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in Southeast Asia, and severely sabotage regional peace and stability.

Third, for years, the US, the UK and Australia have been calling themselves leaders of international non-proliferation efforts, but the fact is quite the opposite -- they are proven to proliferate. China again urges the three countries to heed the call from the international community, abandon outdated zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concepts, revoke the wrong decision, faithfully fulfill international non-proliferation obligations and do more that benefits regional peace, stability and development.

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