Sydney, Australia, Sep 16 (EFE).- Australian nuclear submarines to be built under a new trilateral security pact will be banned from New Zealand waters in line with its longstanding nuclear-free policy, the country’s prime minister said on Thursday.
Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarines are the centerpiece of a new security alliance between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom (AUKUS) aimed at countering China in the Indo-Pacific, and announced hours earlier.
Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Wellington that both Australia and its partners are “very well versed and understand our position on nuclear-powered vessels and also nuclear weapons” and therefore understand that its “position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged.”
New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy was adopted in the mid-1980s during France’s extensive atmospheric nuclear testing at Moruroa Atoll in French Polynesia, South Pacific. The testing site was attended by protest vessels from New Zealand as well as environmental organization Greenpeace’s fleet flagship “Rainbow Warrior.”
In 1985 the “Rainbow Warrior” was bombed and sunk in Auckland Harbor, killing a Portuguese-Dutch photographer, and later found to be carried out by two French government intelligence agents.
New Zealand that same year declared itself a nuclear-free zone and prohibited the deployment and testing of nuclear explosive devices and the storage of nuclear waste, as well as the entry of nuclear-powered ships into its waters or their use of its ports. In 1987 the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act came into force.
During the virtual presentation of the AUKUS alliance, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised that “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” while US President Joe Biden emphasized that the submarines that Australia will acquire will not be equipped with “nuclear weapons,” but will be “conventionally armed” and powered by nuclear reactors.
Ardern assured that the new agreement “in no way changes our security and intelligence ties with these three countries, as well as Canada,” the nations that form the Five Eyes security alliance.
“We welcome the increased engagement of the UK and US in the region and reiterate our collective objective needs to be the delivery of peace and stability and the preservation of the international rules based system,” she added.
The nuclear-free policy of New Zealand caused a rift with Washington, which suspended its obligations under the ANZUS military treaty signed with the US and Australia 70 years ago. EFE