A Chinese envoy on Monday reiterated concerns over the nuclear weapon material transfer involved in AUKUS, the trilateral pact between the United States, the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia, calling on the three countries to abandon it over nuclear proliferation risks.
Wang Qun, China's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna, made the remark after a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors decided by consensus to set up a formal agenda item on "Transfer of nuclear materials in the context of AUKUS and its safeguards in all aspects under the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons)" at China's proposal.
This move "foiled certain countries' attempt to hijack the IAEA Board meeting," Wang said, adding that it was the fourth consecutive time that the AUKUS issue was included in the formal agenda of the agency's quarterly Board meeting, reflecting the international community's concerns over the transfer of nuclear weapon materials involved in the deal.
In September 2021, the U.S., the UK and Australia announced the establishment of AUKUS, under which the U.S. and the UK will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.
Wang noted that the AUKUS-related nuclear material transfer is at its core an issue of nuclear proliferation.
"AUKUS goes beyond the existing international non-proliferation regime and the mandate of the IAEA Secretariat. The issue should not be handled by the three countries alone and must be handled by the IAEA member states," he said.
He added that China has always advocated discussion of the issue through an intergovernmental process and the previous discussions at the IAEA Board meetings have helped the international community and the agency's member states realize the severe negative impacts of AUKUS, especially its proliferation risks.
The Chinese envoy said the IAEA Secretariat has been providing a platform for the international community to discuss AUKUS in a fair and objective manner according to the Secretariat's mandate. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi has recently published a report on AUKUS, marking a right step in urging the three countries to fulfill their non-proliferation obligations.
However, the U.S., the UK and Australia have ignored the AUKUS-related discussions at the IAEA Board meetings and in relevant intergovernmental processes and tried to set up a separate agenda item on the issue, aiming to hijack the IAEA Secretariat to whitewash their proliferation activities and create divisions within the agency, Wang said.
He urged the IAEA to remain neutral and continue to provide the platform for addressing the proliferation risks of AUKUS, and called on the IAEA member states to focus on the illicit transfer of nuclear materials under AUKUS at the agency's ongoing Board meeting and seek solutions to safeguard the NPT.
He also urged the U.S., the UK and Australia to stop hindering the IAEA's performance of its duties and undermining the international order, multilateralism and world peace.