(Bloomberg) — China lambasted the latest steps taken by the UK and US to supply conventionally-armed but nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, in a diplomatic broadside circulated overnight among international atomic envoys.
Beijing’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Li Song, said the Aukus agreement will undercut global efforts to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear fuel and open new proliferation pathways for other countries. Iran and South Korea are among nations that have also explored obtaining nuclear-powered submarines, and Brazil has already committed to building a fleet.
“If the Aukus partners insist on taking their own course, it is inevitable that some other countries will follow suit, which may eventually lead to the collapse of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime,” China wrote in the statement circulated in Vienna late Tuesday.
China published its criticism during President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Moscow, where his meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ended in a series of nuclear agreements. Earlier this month, the leaders of the US, the UK and Australia unveiled their ambitious multibillion-dollar plan for their fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that will ply the Pacific in an effort to blunt China’s growing assertiveness.
The diplomatic note accused the Aukus partners of “coercing” the IAEA into signing off on the deal. A legal loophole in international non-proliferation agreements lets the IAEA exempt inspections of weapons-grade uranium used to power vessels while at sea, provided the material can later be accounted for.
“This process involves serious legal and complex technical matters,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said earlier this month. “Ultimately, the agency must ensure that no proliferation risks will emanate from this project.
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