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Chinese FM Spokesperson: The US-UK-Australia Submarine Cooperation Caused Alarm and Rejection among Regional Countries

2021-10-18

At a regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China on 15 October, spokesperson Zhao Lijian answered a question on the concerns of Samoa and Kiribati about the US-UK-Australia submarine cooperation.

Journalist: The Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations said the United States is the only one of the five nuclear-weapon states that refuses to ratify the Protocols to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty. The Kiribati President also is especially concerned about Australia developing nuclear-powered submarines, noting that his country is one of the Pacific islands and its people were victims of the nuclear tests of the UK and the US. He added “with anything to do with nuclear, we thought it would be a courtesy to raise it, to discuss it with your neighbours." Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: The concerns of Samoa and Kiribati are justified and legitimate. Facts have proved that the US-UK-Australia submarine cooperation is very unpopular and has caused alarm and rejection among regional countries and the international community. The latest move of the three countries have blatantly instigated confrontation and division in the region, accelerated arms race, and undermined regional peace and stability. It also violates the spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and impairs the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty. The practices of the three countries prove again that for geopolitical and military confrontation purposes, they will go as far as to discard the basic norms of international relations that countries, big and small, are all equals, and wantonly run against the will of regional countries and trample upon their rights and interests.

Pacific island countries are highly sensitive about the nuclear issue largely because of their bitter memory of nuclear tests conducted by the US and the UK in the region. According to open resources, the US conducted 67 nuclear tests on the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. In 1957 and 1958, the UK conducted 9 nuclear tests in its former colony of what is called Kiribati today. Between 1946 and 1982, the US, the UK and other countries dumped large amount of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. The US even shipped 130 tons of nuclear contaminated soil from nuclear testing grounds in Nevada all the way to the Marshall Islands. Australia is also a perpetrator. It once actively sought to acquire and develop nuclear weapons, and allowed the UK to conduct nuclear tests on the Montebello Islands off Western Australia, and Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia between 1952 and 1963. These nuclear tests and waste have gravely undermined local ecological environment, harmed the safety and health of local residents, and caused severe disasters to countries and people in the region.

The remarks of the Samoan representative reminds us once again that in 1996 the US signed the three protocols to South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty, or the Treaty of Rarotonga, but has not ratified any of them, making itself the only one that has not ratified the protocols among the five nuclear-weapon states. The US should listen to the appeals of regional countries, ratify the protocols to the Treaty at an early date, earnestly fulfill its obligations under the protocols, and refrain from deploying nuclear weapons in the region or spreading nuclear weapons to regional countries.

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. 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 and stability.

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