The Gamble of AUKUS: Eroding the Rules of Nuclear Non-Proliferation?
Policy Brief No. 84
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This policy brief by APLN Associate Fellow Karla Mae Pabeliña, Senior Foreign Affairs Research Specialist at the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) of the Philippine Foreign Service Institute (FSI), asserts that the conclusion of the AUKUS pact between Australia, the UK, and the United States, provides further impetus for the development of improved verification mechanisms and confidence-building measures.
These measures will ensure that the transfer, development, or use of nuclear materials and technology for non-proscribed military activities such as naval nuclear propulsion, will be in conformity with the goal of achieving a world free from nuclear weapons. With the Non-Proliferation Treaty at a critical juncture, it behoves all state parties to act in a manner that will strengthen its credibility and improve its vitality.
The policy brief provides several recommendations for the three AUKUS states:
- Exhibit transparency and willingness to resolve misunderstanding regarding the planned nuclear-powered submarines, without exposing sensitive military information.
- Explore the feasibility of a naval-use safeguards agreement (NUSA) which includes confidence-building measures for the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS).
- Conduct studies on the possible verification tools that would enable the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to draw conclusions that no nuclear material or technologies for non-proscribed military activity were clandestinely diverted to produce nuclear weapons.
- Refrain from any statement or action that may indicate that flexibility should be accorded to Australia on the basis of its good track record in non-proliferation.
- Explore provision of an alternative low-enriched uranium (LEU) reactor for Australian and even US and UK submarines.
About the Author
Ms. Karla Mae G. Pabeliña is an Associate Fellow at APLN and a Senior Foreign Affairs Research Specialist at the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) of the Philippine Foreign Service Institute (FSI). She has been actively involved in Track II dialogues on Nonproliferation and Disarmament in the Asia-Pacific through the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP). Karla is an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP); a recipient of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Women Scholarship for Peace (Global South: Asia-Pacific); as well as the 2017 United Nations Fellowships on Disarmament.
Karla obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of the Philippines, Diliman in 2007. She received her Masters in Strategic and Arms Control Studies with Красный диплом or red diploma from Saint-Petersburg State University, Russian Federation. Prior to her work at the FSI, she was a Research Officer for the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVF). She also worked as a Research Assistant for the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS Philippines), an independent policy research and advocacy institution affiliated with the UP Department of Political Science.
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Image: Astute class submarine HMS Ambush is pictured during sea trials near Scotland (UK Ministry of Defence, Will Haigh).