Sydney, Australia, Dec 20 (EFE).- New Zealand’s new prime minister Christopher Luxon on Wednesday expressed his country’s interest in joining part of the Aukus security pact while on a visit to Australia.
The defense agreement was signed between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States in 2021 to reinforce its presence in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s growing influence.
“Aukus is a very important element in ensuring we’ve got stability and peace for the region, and we’ve talked about it – there’s a number of countries that are increasing their military capabilities and it’s a more contested region for sure,” the conservative Luxon said at a press conference in Sydney alongside his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese.
New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance that also includes the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, has an interest in the section of Aukus that refers to the exchange of new technologies and the cooperation between the armed forces of the allies.
“We are interested in exploring pillar two in Aukus, particular new technologies and what that and the opportunities that may mean for New Zealand to participate. We’ll work our way through that over the course of next year as we understand it more and think about what the opportunities may be for us,” Luxon said.
The Aukus agreement includes Australia’s acquisition and development of nuclear-powered submarines, and although he reaffirmed his country’s interest in joining the agreement, Luxon reminded that New Zealand is a nuclear-free country.
It made the move in 1987 following France’s 1985 bombing and sinking of a Greenpeace ship in the port of Auckland, which was to protest the nuclear testing that France was carrying out in the South Pacific. A Portuguese photographer died in the sinking.
“We will always have our nuclear free position. That’s non-negotiable for us in New Zealand. We already have our navies that work together in an incredibly interoperable way and we want to see more,” said Luxon during his first trip abroad since taking power at the end of November.
Albanese stressed that “there are opportunities for greater cooperation between our militaries, particularly in interoperability,” recalling that both countries “provide support for each other at times of need of natural disasters.”
“That’s just one area whereby increased cooperation could benefit both of our nations,” said the Australian leader.
Albanese also again praised the approval by the US Congress last week of a law that allows the development of nuclear submarines in Australia, while he thanked the “support and understanding” of the South Pacific countries.
“What we’re envisaging here is nuclear propulsion, not nuclear armed ships. It’s a very important distinction to draw and certainly we see Aukus as being very important for promoting stability and security in the Pacific,” said Albanese.
Aukus has been strongly criticized by China, which has accused the trio of fueling an arms race in the Indo-Pacific region, where the situations in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait are particularly volatile. EFE