VIENNA, June 9 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese envoy lambasted the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal at the board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held here Thursday.
Li Song, China's permanent representative to the IAEA, stressed that the essence of the deal would transfer tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium from the United States and Britain, both nuclear-weapon states, to their military ally Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state.
Under the trilateral AUKUS alliance, announced in September 2021, Australia can build nuclear-powered submarines with technology provided by the United States and Britain.
The AUKUS countries have carried out the strategic military cooperation for "widely known geopolitical purposes," which has unprecedentedly violated the principles and practices of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and severely undermined the international non-proliferation regime and the IAEA's safeguards system, Li said.
Thursday's meeting marked the eighth consecutive time the IAEA reviewed the AUKUS issue through intergovernmental discussions at China's proposal.
The Chinese envoy noted at the meeting that the AUKUS submarine collaboration and the three countries' efforts to politicize the issue at the IAEA and polarize the agency's member states reflect their Cold War mentality and confrontational blocs.
The AUKUS countries have attempted to depict their nuclear submarine deal as a routine safeguards issue between a non-nuclear-weapon state and the IAEA Secretariat. They have requested the IAEA invoke Article 14 of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement to make safeguards exemption arrangements, said the envoy, stressing that "this is a clandestine move to coerce the IAEA Secretariat into endorsing their cooperation."
Noting that the AUKUS countries claimed they would work out suitable arrangements with the IAEA Secretariat to set a precedent for other countries' pursuit of naval nuclear propulsion programs, Li questioned such legitimacy.
"Who has granted this right to the three countries? Will other countries have a say on this issue?" Li said, adding that in the past, the three countries always emphasized "the intergovernmental process led by member states" when they set the rules for others.
"But this time, when they want to set the rules for themselves and impose the rules on other member states, they have been very reluctant to initiate an intergovernmental process involving all parties and have constantly tried to obstruct it," he said.
The Chinse envoy also pointed out that the AUKUS deal involves complicated political, security, legal and technical issues, which have caused huge disputes among the IAEA member states.
Representatives from more than 20 countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina, echoed the position of the Chinese side in their speeches at Thursday's IAEA board meeting.
"During the meeting, more member states have put forward important views from different perspectives," Li said, adding that all countries must join hands to steadily advance an open, inclusive, transparent and sustainable intergovernmental discussion process.
Li urged the AUKUS countries to address the international community's concerns with concrete actions, fulfill their non-proliferation obligations, and maintain candid and transparent communication with other parties on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Li expressed the hope that IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi will fully respect and objectively present the different views and concerns of all parties. He also called on the IAEA Secretariat to comply with the IAEA Statute and the mandates of member states.
After the meeting, the Chinese envoy told reporters that China's diplomatic efforts have helped advance the IAEA member states' understanding of the AUKUS issue and promote an intergovernmental discussion.
China will continue to actively advocate and practice genuine multilateralism, firmly uphold the authority of international non-proliferation, safeguard international law and the global system with the United Nations at its core, and oppose a Cold War mentality, bloc confrontation and double standards, he added. ■