The Guardian • Issue #1983

AUKUS exposed: nuclear is back

Part 1

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1983

Anna Pha

When newly-elected Democrat President Joe Biden proclaimed that “America is back”, it was not immediately clear just what that entailed. It is now evident that it was not about jobs in the rust belt or economic recovery for workers. It was a reference to the US’s role on the world stage, and a dangerous, warmongering one at that.

Biden has taken up former Democrat President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” with its aim of containing China, bringing about the overthrow of its government and defeating socialism.

Capitalist US is threatened by socialist China’s rapid economic growth and development demonstrated by its ability to lift hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty and rapidly growing prosperity.

The US was caught on the back foot by China’s rapid modernisation of its military in response to the threat posed by US imperialism. China, once a relatively passive player in global politics, has become assertive, drawn a “red line,” refusing to cop any more bullying.

The US has reacted by launching a new cold war and arms race in the Asia-Pacific region. It has increased its joint military exercises with strategic partners, placed greater emphasis on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and shocked both its NATO allies and the Asian-Pacific region with the formation of AUKUS.


AUKUS is a military agreement between the US, the UK, and Australia which provides for Australia to gain access to weapons grade nuclear technology for the building of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines and the Australian government cancelling a contract with the French Naval Group for twelve conventional submarines.

But there is much more to AUKUS than nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear technology. The US will gain a greater military presence in Australia, more bases, the stationing of nuclear-powered submarines carrying nuclear weapons, conduct more military exercises, and further integrate Australia’s forces into and under the command of the US.

AUKUS also involves the purchase of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (Extended Range), Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (Extended Range), precision strike guided missiles, and the development of hypersonic missiles in collaboration with the US. Other aspects include collaboration on military-related cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities. It complements the Five Eyes intelligence spy alliance comprising the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Hugh White is a long-time defence and intelligence analyst, former Deputy Secretary for Strategy and Intelligence in the Department of Defence and author who has published extensive works on military matters. His assessment of AUKUS in an article in The Saturday Paper is telling: “… it deepens our commitment to the United States military confrontation of China, which has little chance of success and carries terrifying risks.”

“If Australia’s submarines were intended primarily to defend Australia and our closer neighbours, then there is no way we’d consider nuclear propulsion.” White continues: “If the US, by miscalculation [or design] does find itself at war with China, we absolutely cannot assume that we would win. That must, surely, enter our calculations about whether we commit ourselves fighting alongside America.”

(For more on AUKUS see Guardian #1980, “Subs, Subservience and Stupidity”, “Australia’s own goal,” and #1981, “No nuclear Australia: Time for Action!”)

AUKUS also poses a threat to North Korea. (See Guardian #1982, “AUKUS is a direct threat to North Korea”)


Just a week after the AUKUS announcement, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the US met in person as “the Quad” for the first time. The meeting issued a Communiqué that without naming China, clearly made China the target of the Quad’s military objectives.

Much of the Communiqué was taken up with cooperation by the partnership on the climate crisis and fighting the pandemic, including the donation of more than 1.2 billion doses of vaccine.

But the real subject was clear in references to “a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient,” and “ensuring that the region remains inclusive, open, and governed by universal rules and norms.”

This is spin for challenging China in the East and South China Seas, with the US, Australia and other allies continuing to carry out fly-overs and station submarines and warships in those seas.


There have been mixed responses in the Asia-Pacific region to AUKUS and the Quad’s meeting with some countries caught between antagonising China who they rely on for trade and investment while lining up politically and strategically with the United States.

The majority of countries do not want to be put in a position of choosing sides – China or the US. Nor do they want to see an arms race in the region or be involved in fighting proxy wars for the US.

Indonesia and Malaysia have reacted strongly against Australia’s purchase of nuclear-powered submarines. Singapore, a close ally of Australia and a member of Five Eyes, has expressed concern.

All fear a nuclear arms race. The submarines are seen as a first step towards Australia acquiring nuclear weapons. Australia has refused to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to adopt a position at its next meting later this month. Its members include Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. ASEAN describes itself as a “zone of peace, freedom and neutrality,” free from interference by outside powers. Its members have signed the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.

Countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia attempt to tread a middle path keeping good relations with both the US and China, whereas the Philippines is closely allied with the US. It remains to be seen how these differences will be played out at the forthcoming meeting of ASEAN.

Japan is strongly allied with the US militarily but fears war with China. It is stirring the pot with China by establishing ruling party relations with Taiwan, part of the undermining of the internationally recognised One-China policy.

In recent years India has moved closer to the US and been involved in joint military exercises but it is no lackey to the US even though it takes an anti-China stance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees India as a future power competing with China and the US.

The US claims to be protecting its interests in the region with its heavy military presence, alliances, and military exercises. By “interests” it means its hegemony and imperialist domination. The bottom line is profits, the profits of US corporations, including the military industrial complex.

Part 2 next week: “US wars, trend towards multipolar world, and China’s response.”

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