New Zealand leaning towards AUKUS

The following article, written by independent journalist Mick Hall, details the growing danger that New Zealand may join the AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States) agreement, an aggressive military alliance directed against China. The planned deployment of nuclear-powered submarines by Australia is at the heart of the AUKUS project. New Zealand has hitherto followed a strict non-nuclear policy since the adoption of the Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987. According to Marco de Jong, historian and co-director of Te Kuaka NZA, an organisation advocating an independent and progressive foreign policy, if New Zealand did join the US-led bloc it would effectively compromise this long-held anti-nuclear policy. 

The move comes after a new coalition government, led by the right wing National Party, and including ACT, a far right libertarian party, took office on November 27, 2023, following the defeat of the previously governing New Zealand Labour Party in the country’s October 14 general election. 

Early statements by ministers in the country’s new government indicate that its foreign policy will be much more in synch with the ‘Five Eyes’ Anglosphere and US strategic interests than the previous Labour government, which took a relatively independent stand.  However, pre-election, Labour Prime Minister Chris Hipkins had indicated that, he too was open to at least some type of relationship with AUKUS. Hipkins became Prime Minister on January 25, 2023, following the resignation of the relatively more progressive and popular Jacinda Ardern, a factor that many believe contributed to Labour’s subsequent defeat at the polls.

According to Marco de Jong, a New Zealand move towards AUKUS is not wanted either by other nations in the Pacific nor by the country’s indigenous Maori population:

“Deeper integration with the military industrial base of the Anglosphere is something that we should be incredibly concerned about for New Zealand and its standing in the region and in the world.”

New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy has also been a factor in the country’s good relations with China, which is its largest trading partner. 

Te Pati Maori, also known as The Maori Party, a left wing party representing the country’s indigenous people, and which won six seats in the October general election, wants New Zealand to be non-aligned. Its co-leader  Rawiri Waititi said his party feared for the nation’s sovereignty if  an alignment with AUKUS was pursued.

“We’re deeply concerned with the implications this has on Aotearoa’s independence and ability to remain militarily neutral,” he said, adding:

“As Maori we cannot allow our sovereignty to be determined by others, whether they are in Canberra or Washington. Aotearoa should not act as a Pacific spy base in the wars of imperial powers. Joining AUKUS will severely undermine our country’s sovereignty, constitution, and ability to remain nuclear free. There is too much at stake for our government to make a commitment of this magnitude without a democratic process.” (Aotearoa is increasingly used as the name for the country in place of New Zealand.)

The following article was originally published by Consortium News.

Concerns are rising for peace and sovereignty in the Pacific after strong signals from New Zealand’s new government that it wants to swiftly join the U.S.-led military alliance AUKUS.

If New Zealand does join the U.S.-led military bloc it would effectively compromise the country’s long-held anti-nuclear policy, Marco De Jong, historian and co-director of the New Zealand foreign policy group Te Kuaka, told Consortium News.

He said the decision would put an end to what is left of the nation’s independent foreign policy, as well as its image as an “honest broker” in a region already divided by increasing militarization.

The 2021 AUKUS agreement among Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. centers on the tripartite development of a nuclear submarine fleet within a security partnership geared to upholding the “rules-based international order,” as well as a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” Though not stated explicitly, it is seen as an anti-China alliance, based on a hyped-up threat of Beijing to  the region.

It is controversial in Australia because the decision to join AUKUS with an AU$368 billion price tag for the submarines was continued by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (following its initiation by the previous prime minister Scott Morrison) without any consultation with Parliament, let alone the public.

There is dissension in Albanese’s Labor Party, and former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, four days after the event in San Diego, publicly ripped the deal.

Keating said Australia was

“now part of a containment policy against China. The Chinese government doesn’t want to attack anybody. They don’t want to attack us … We supply their iron ore which keeps their industrial base going, and there’s nowhere else but us to get it. Why would they attack? They don’t want to attack the Americans … It’s about one matter only: the maintenance of U.S. strategic hegemony in East Asia. This is what this [AUKUS] is all about.”

By subordinating itself, Keating said Australia is forfeiting its sovereignty to rely on Britain, which abandoned its former colony years ago, to build nuclear submarines that serve U.S. — and not Australian — interests. 

Nevertheless the deal is still on track. It was announced in March that SNN-AUKUS nuclear submarines would be delivered to Australia by the early 2040s and the U.K. by the late 2030s.

A bill passed in the U.S. Congress on Thursday cleared the way to sell three-to-five Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the interim by the early 2030s.

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The Global Security Initiative could drastically reduce nuclear risks

The Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) organised a webinar on May 30 to discuss the Global Security Initiative (GSI) put forward by President Xi Jinping. Speakers were Minister Wang Qi from the Chinese Embassy in London; Tom Unterrainer, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND); Dr. Zeno Leoni, Lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London; John Gittings, long-term China specialist and peace activist and former assistant foreign editor at the Guardian newspaper; and Dr. Jenny Clegg, retired senior lecturer in Asia-Pacific studies, peace activist, Vice-President of SACU, and member of the Friends of Socialist China advisory group. The webinar was introduced and chaired by Keith Bennett, SACU member and Co-editor of Friends of Socialist China.

In his contribution, Tom noted that the GSI has a focus on nuclear weapons, reiterating that, “a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” Yet today, “rather than a reduction in nuclear risks the world is faced with the most acute set of such risks since the opening of the atomic age.” The famed ‘Doomsday Clock’ of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is now set at 90 seconds, Tom said, adding:

“It goes without saying that if the proposals contained in China’s GSI were to become the norm through which states and groups of states interacted on the global stage, then we would expect to see a drastic ‘winding back’ of the minute and second hands of the ‘Doomsday Clock’.”

China’s policy with regard to nuclear weapons, Tom explained, is not new, but dates back to the country’s first test of an atomic bomb on 16 October 1964, when the Chinese government noted that it has, “consistently advocated the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. If this had been achieved, China need not have developed nuclear weapons. But our proposal was met with stubborn resistance…The Chinese Government hereby solemnly declares that China will never at any time or under any circumstances be the first to use nuclear weapons.”

These policies have remained consistent to the present day.

Tom further noted that it is a matter of public record that China has been repeatedly threatened with nuclear attack, including by Truman in 1950, by Eisenhower in 1953, and then consistently through the 1950s. The UK’s National Archives also reveal that the British government considered threatening China with nuclear attack in 1961.

The GSI, he observed, “offers a number of straightforward measures that could drastically reduce these [nuclear] risks.”

We reprint below a slightly expanded version of Tom’s contribution to the webinar, which was originally published on END Info, a blog produced by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation for European Nuclear Disarmament (END). The full webinar can be viewed here.

I want to focus on nuclear weapons questions as they relate to the Global Security Initiative but in so doing, it would be wrong to conceive of nuclear risks as entirely separate from the general security issues that the GSI seeks to address. I’d go further and say that eliminating the existential risks posed by the prospect of nuclear use is a central aspect of any coherent approach to security.

Priority 3 of the concept paper addresses nuclear questions and opens with a reaffirmation of the 2022 joint statement of five nuclear-armed states, China included. This statement was, of course, a reaffirmation of a similar statement by Reagan and Gorbachev in the 1980s: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.

Since the January 2022 statement, rather than a reduction in nuclear risks the world is faced with the most acute set of such risks since the opening of the atomic age.

As evidence, we need look no further than the decision of the Atomic Scientists to set the hands of their ‘Doomsday Clock’ to ’90 seconds to Midnight’. This cautionary metaphor – signalling the perils we all face resulting from the combined dangers nuclear war, climate catastrophe and technological threats – has never been as close to ‘Midnight’ as it is now. The Atomic Scientists were clear about the contribution of nuclear threats, arising from the terrible events in Ukraine, to their decision.

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Aukus might create jobs – but at what cost?

This article by Jenny Clegg, originally published in the Morning Star, discusses the recent announcement by Britain’s Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) that it welcomes the Aukus trilateral security deal on the grounds that it will ostensibly create thousands of well-paid jobs for British engineers.

Jenny points out that, even on the basis of purely economic calculations, directing Britain’s advanced engineering sector towards a project like Aukus is utterly self-defeating. It will adversely affect ties with China – trade with which is connected to orders of magnitude more jobs than Aukus is. Furthermore, it means divesting from far more promising and worthwhile projects, particularly in relation to preventing climate breakdown.

Aukus is part of an escalating US-led drive to war against China, and what’s more it violates the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is patently foolish for Britain to attach itself to such a project, and particularly so for the British working class. Jenny asks of CSEU members: “Do they want to be building a world of conflict, tension and destabilisation for decades to come? Is that the kind of future they envisage for their children and grandchildren?”

THE Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) has welcomed the benefits of Aukus, creating thousands of well-paid jobs, securing thousands more across the supply chains for years to come.

But what about the costs?

Within Britain’s constrained budgets, creating one job in the defence sector means cutting significantly more jobs — quite possibly those of trade union members — in sectors, for example, that provide for social welfare.

The £3 billion defence spending increase recently announced by PM Rishi Sunak to go on supporting the delivery of Aukus is enough to pay the junior doctors’ claims in full one-and-a-half times over. And it is just the start.

The benefits to the supply chain might not be that great either since over a third of MoD supplies are purchased from overseas.

The reactors to power the Aukus submarines are to be built by Rolls-Royce in Derby using weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.

Thousands of jobs will be created, yes, but these vessels are for war-fighting so this will breach the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) stipulation that the exchange of nuclear technology must be “for peaceful purposes.”

This also violates the spirit of the Nuclear Weapon Free Zones of the south Pacific and south-east Asia. There, the expanding authority of the Anglosphere is not something that is welcomed.

It goes against hopes to make the region a zone of peace, instead increasing the likelihood of regional nuclear proliferation and an escalating arms race.

A recent meeting of former Pacific leaders raised complaints about the “staggering” amount of money committed to Aukus which “flies in the face of Pacific Islands countries … crying out for climate change support,” the “threat … challenging our future existence,” they said, “is not China but climate change.”

The gross overexpansion of Britain’s military industrial base is to prepare for war with China. But China has not fought a war for 40 years; it maintains a defensive military posture with just one overseas base and only a small nuclear arsenal kept under “no first use.” By treating China as the enemy, Aukus will surely turn it into one.

China in fact is Britain’s fourth-largest trading partner; economic links have generated at least 150,000 jobs across the country and there is great potential for this to grow.

Not long ago Chinese companies stepped in to help in the rescue of Jaguar Land Rover and saved 3,000 jobs at British Steel.

Why put all this at risk? China should be seen as an opportunity not a threat.

By the time the submarines become operational in the 2040s, the world will be massively transformed.

The emerging markets of the Brics countries already exceed the G7 in economic size and will easily double this in 20 years.

A paradigm shift is under way as these rising powers reset world agendas — it is their priorities on climate change, health and tackling poverty that are now driving the world economy.

Yet Britain continues on the path of disproportionate military influence even as it drops out of the world’s top 10 economies in the coming years.

The CSEU is working with the Australian engineering unions, yet the Australian Council of Trade Unions (Actu), which brings together 36 trade unions, has not endorsed the pact and maintains its backing of Australia’s nuclear-free defence policy.

To support the huge Aukus military expansion, the Australian taxpayer will pay on average US$6bn per year for the next 30 years — a whacking total of US$245bn.

To secure Britain’s high-skilled base requires long-term contracts but the MoD’s seemingly easy solution stokes more problems for the future: the more that is invested in arms production, the harder it is to reverse — the end of a contract means thousands of jobs are at stake and the chase for investment becomes endless.

The British government has just spent over £6bn on the two aircraft carriers, now one is being mothballed. How many more white elephants are planned?

The CSEU needs to think again. Instead of delivering the labour movement into the pockets of BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, instead of driving China onto a war-footing, it should inform its members of the implications of the scheme.

It should ask them: do they want to be building a world of conflict, tension and destabilisation for decades to come? Is that the kind of future they envisage for their children and grandchildren?

We are nowhere close to having sufficient green skills to deliver the green transition globally — the CSEU should be encouraging apprentices to hone their skills for a green future; and it should get creative and set up teams of members to come up with alternative ideas not least to serve the new agendas and growing markets of the global South.

People in Britain can only rely now on skilled engineers to ensure the economy remains relevant in the coming decades. Politicians are failing us — it is up to the unions to envisage a different future for the country and to see that Britain’s advanced engineering is put to good use in a vastly changing world.

Wang Yi meets with Sergey Lavrov

As part of the recent week of intensive diplomatic activity in Asia, focused around regional and global gatherings successively in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit of major economies.

Discussing the Ukraine issue, Wang Yi said that China has noted that Russia recently reiterated its established position that a nuclear war must never be fought, which represents a rational and responsible attitude of Russia.

The importance of this statement is that it clearly debunks the, deliberate or otherwise, misrepresentation of the comments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example in his meeting with German Chancellor Scholz, opposing the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in the context of the Ukraine conflict as somehow representing an attack on Russia or indicating a fundamental difference between the two countries.

The following article was first published on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

On November 15, 2022 local time, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was accompanying President Xi Jinping to the Group of Twenty (G20) Bali Summit, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the summit.

Lavrov once again extended warm congratulations on the success of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). He said that President Xi Jinping’s re-election as General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee by a unanimous vote testifies to the lofty political prestige of President Xi Jinping and the deep trust and strong support from the Chinese people. Russia is ready to work with China to further consolidate the sound momentum of high-level exchanges between the two countries, maintain the continuity of the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, expand pragmatic cooperation between the two sides, and strengthen international coordination, so as to fully release the potential of Russia-China relations.

Wang Yi said that the success of the 20th CPC National Congress has been in the limelight in China and the world as a whole. The most important outcome of the congress is the election of a new central leadership with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core. That fully reflects the common will of the whole Party and the people across the country. Steered by General Secretary Xi Jinping at the core of the Party central committee and in the Party as a whole, and under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China, as a giant ship,  will forge ahead toward the established goal of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation without fear of any winds and storms. China is ready to work with Russia to pursue a well-coordinated approach to high-level exchanges and exchanges in various fields, deepen pragmatic cooperation, and facilitate personnel exchanges.

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The world needs cooperation, not cold war

We are pleased to republish the following statement, issued recently by the CPUSA Peace & Solidarity Commission and the International Department.

What the world needs is peaceful international relations, equality, global cooperation, and development

What is needed above all in the world today is cooperation among all nations to address existential threats to humanity and indeed life on earth. What is needed now is for all nations to abide by the UN Charter, to join the Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons, to honor other nuclear weapons treaties, and to pivot national budgets to dismantling and eliminating nuclear weapons. What is needed above all is immediate action to prevent tectonic environmental shifts. All nations must act together to prevent the observable climate calamities from getting far worse and to seek out solutions to material energy needs that benefit all humankind while protecting the health of the planet. What is needed now is global collaboration to significantly reduce the pandemic through immediate universal access to vaccines and medicines. Making the world safe and humanity healthy should top the priority list of all nations. In particular, the two countries with the biggest economies and biggest impact on earth, the United States and China, along with their partners and allies have the responsibility to cooperate to these ends.

The CPUSA welcomes the joint statement by China and the U.S. on climate cooperation and demands its urgent, practical implementation and extension to other critical domains. Such offers of cooperation have to be deepened, widened, and urgently acted upon.

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Keith Lamb: Joint world powers’ statement on nuclear war must be backed up by action

This article by Keith Lamb, republished from CGTN, examines the recent joint statement by China, Britain, France, the US and Russia of their shared determination to avoid nuclear conflict. While this is certainly a positive development, Lamb points out that in a geopolitical context of imperialism, hegemonism, unilateralism and war, the danger of nuclear conflict remains ever-present. He calls on the other nuclear powers to follow China’s lead in adopting a no-first-use policy, and in working towards a multipolar system of international relations based on peace, equality, mutual respect, and sovereign development.

The recent joint statement by China, Britain, France, the U.S. and Russia affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought… [and] as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war” is certainly a step in the right direction, by the five nuclear-weapon states.

However, as tensions heat up in Ukraine and the U.S. continues to ignite a new cold war, with China, concrete actions need to back up this lofty language and the historical context of the brutality of atomic weapons must be laid clear so that the states who have the power to reign peace onto the world can take stock and set the correct course for their future actions.

Historically, only the U.S. has ever used the atomic bomb which killed up to an estimated 300,000 primarily old, women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Tragically if we believe the likes of General Dwight D. Eisenhower or Admiral William D. Leahy then Japan was already defeated and the atomic option was unnecessary. Thus, the brutal atomic option was more a geopolitical lesson for the USSR.

Continue reading Keith Lamb: Joint world powers’ statement on nuclear war must be backed up by action