On September 15, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia announced their newly forged trilateral military alliance– AUKUS. A stated aspect of the agreement is the modernization of military assets to address growing “security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”[1] The Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) and the RESIST US-led War Movement (RESIST) consider the AUKUS as a threat to genuine security in the region. We stand in solidarity with the peoples of the Asia Pacific demanding that AUKUS be immediately scrapped.

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The security pact sets its eyes on improving cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and other technologies. But, the most contentious initiative under AUKUS is Australia’s acquisition of, at minimum, eight nuclear-powered submarines through BAE Systems PLc.[2] The Australian Defence Force’s arsenal will also be augmented with Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (Extended Range), Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (Extended Range), hypersonic missiles, precision strike guided missiles, and developing a sovereign guided weapons manufacturing enterprise. These enhancements are integrated into the existing military systems of the three countries in the region. These bolster the hundreds of military bases in the Asia Pacific region; the US-Australia Pine Gap base used for intelligence and drone strikes; the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group recently sailing into the South China Sea; and Britain’s recent announcement that they will permanently station two warships in contested waters.[3][4][5]

the deal was made with “international rules-based order” in mind. They also claimed that AUKUS would contribute to the “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

According to the joint statement by the leaders of the three AUKUS countries, the deal was made with “international rules-based order” in mind. They also claimed that AUKUS would contribute to the “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”[6] History, however, has taught us that these countries think “peace and stability” means manifest destiny; using their military might to influence world affairs to their favor.   

China, more than anyone, is aware that this new military alliance between and among its rivals is surely aimed at limiting China’s influence and economic control and directed towards neutralizing their military dominance over the region. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson condemned the alliance’s “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow minded geopolitical perception”.[7] Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party-owned international media outfit, called Australia a “running dog of the US” for its involvement in the “US-led strategic siege of China.” The Global Times’ editorial went on to assert that “if Australia dares to provoke China more blatantly because of that, or even find fault militarily, China will certainly punish it with no mercy.”[8] Both Washington and Beijing have given their continued fidelity to keeping the peace and avoiding war, but the advent of the AUKUS pact clearly aggravates tensions.

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What is so important in Asia that key global players would risk compromising relations with allied countries and war with rivals? The answer is economic dominance and trade route control. The AUKUS countries would benefit from securing key supply lines away from global competitors. It would mean, siphoning the Global South’s natural resources, and further penetrating domestic markets of weak democracies where they can dump their surplus goods. In particular, the Straits of Malacca and the global superconductor shortage seem to be primary considerations for key global players’ deepened interest in the region.

China, more than anyone, is aware that this new military alliance between and among its rivals is surely aimed at limiting China’s influence and economic control and directed towards neutralizing their military dominance over the region.

The Straits of Malacca is a major waterway where “[a] quarter of the world’s trade, half the world’s oil, and two-thirds of its natural gas trade pass through”.[9] Specifically, “70 percent of Japan’s oil” and “80 percent of China’s trade” traverses the Malacca Straits. Anyone who can monopolize control over the waterway could dictate the flow of global commerce and use it to leverage further influence over rival countries.[10][11][12]

Moreover, the worldwide microchip shortage is causing major plunges across several industries such as automobile, smartphone, and computer component production. The automobile manufacturing industry anticipates a total loss of at least USD 60.6 billion for this year alone.[13] The shortage-induced economic downturns compounded with the alarming competitiveness of China in microchip production during the past couple of years are prompting Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) member countries (US, Australia, Japan, India) to improve their production processes. They recently expressed their intention to establish “a safe supply chain for semiconductors.” [14] For instance, Australia, as one of the leading sources of essential minerals for microchip production, is advised to further integrate with the supply chain. Meanwhile, the R&D-focused US receives the manufactured chips from East Asia and prepares them for distribution.[15] Certainly, the multi-billion electronics supply chain involving Australia and the US will benefit from the AUKUS military pact.

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The economic objectives of the QUAD are buttressed by its military objectives, and here is where the AUKUS pact comes into full force.  China’s claim to maritime territory of five different countries and territories (Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei) threatens the traditional economic corridors of the QUAD members. While China’s construction of military bases in the region is an existential threat to the US-led military dominance of the Indo-Pacific. AUKUS arrives as a technological upgrade to the military capabilities of the QUAD countries in containing China’s territorial expansion.

The AUKUS pact has far-reaching implications that would introduce added friction in a region that is already tense from territorial disputes. 

  1. It sets a dangerous precedent for Russia and China to follow suit and form their own military alliance that involves situating/producing similar levels of military assets in the region.[16] 
  2. The trilateral alliance actualizes US President Biden’s pronouncements to increase military presence in the Indo-Pacific region in accordance with the National Security Plan. The 21-page plan names China and Russia as threats that should be handled aggressively. This confirms that the US is invested in the struggle for dominance over Asia.[17] 
  3. Australia has officially transitioned from military launchpad to an active major actor in the geopolitical disputes of the region. 
  4. Despite AUKUS member countries ensuring their adherence to nuclear non-proliferation, the use of nuclear-powered submarines in military operations runs the risk of leaking nuclear materials in the Pacific that would thoroughly damage ecosystems and biodiversity. Australia would also have the enriched uranium needed to power nuclear submarines, contributing to the country’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. The mere existence of these submarines could invite other countries to explore nuclear capabilities in modern warfare, catalyzing a nuclear arms race. 
  5. “While AUKUS might help deter Chinese military action and reduce the likelihood of conflict, it also ensures that such a conflict would be much more devastating if it did break out.”[18] 
  6. Last and most importantly, the Global South would find itself dead center of an increasingly destructive hypothetical war. Underdeveloped nations are once again robbed of any agency in determining the region’s peace, security, and stability for the masses of people, not only the elite who stand to gain in such a conflict. In anticipation of probable war, these countries are forced to prioritize spending on defense over health services in the middle of a pandemic– leaving their constituents further vulnerable and exposed.[19] The AUKUS deal’s regional impact is undeniable and has consequently bolstered resistance from various countries.

While some heads of state have spoken out against AUKUS, emphasis should be placed on the resistance of the people. Australia’s own anti-nuclear movement has registered their worries and anger over the sudden introduction of nuclear entities in their country, which they have repelled since the 70s. Citizens of countries in the Pacific have strongly condemned the use of nuclear systems in their territories due to apprehensions surrounding nuclear power’s intrinsic risks– one mistake can lead to extraordinary damage to the environment and the loss of countless lives.[20]        

The APRN and RESIST! stand in solidarity with the people of Asia Pacific not just in abolishing the AUKUS pact, but in dismantling all manifestations of imperialism in the region– may it be from the US, China, or any other country. We are uncompromising in our commitment to end all imperialist conflicts across the globe– putting an end to their insatiable hunger for Third world resources. In addition to opposing armed conflict, we are also devoted to establishing pro-people national economies in underdeveloped countries replacing existing neoliberal policies. 

The freedom and liberation of the Global South comes not just from the absence of war, but also from the presence of a sustainable, independent, and mass-oriented system of governance. Ultimately, we demand that China and the US and their allies respect and observe national sovereignty and patrimony of all nation-states. If they are truly sincere in ensuring regional “peace and stability,” then they must withdraw their military troops, assets, and bases from the Global South.

REFERENCES:

  1. Morrison, S. (2021). Australia to pursue nuclear-powered submarines through new trilateral enhanced security partnership | Prime Minister of Australia. Www.pm.gov.au. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/australia-pursue-nuclear-powered-submarines-through-new-trilateral-enhanced-security
  2. Young, S. (2021, September 16). BAE Systems says ready to support new U.S., UK, Australia defence partnership. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/bae-systems-says-ready-support-new-us-uk-australia-defence-partnership-2021-09-16/
  3. ‌Miller, P. (2020, November 24). Declassified UK: REVEALED: The UK military’s overseas base network involves 145 sites in 42 countries. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-11-24-revealed-the-uk-militarys-overseas-base-network-involves-145-sites-in-42-countries/
  4. ‌Wilson, A. (2021, September 24). USS Ronald Reagan steams into South China Sea after summer deployment to Middle East. Stars and Stripes. https://www.stripes.com/branches/navy/2021-09-24/uss-ronald-reagan-south-china-sea-us-navy-3001798.html
  5. ‌Stashwick, S. (2021, July 21). Britain to Keep 2 Warships Permanently in East Asia. Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2021/07/britain-to-keep-2-warships-permanently-in-east-asia/
  6. ‌Morrison, S., Johnson, B., & Biden, J. (2021, September 16). Joint Leaders Statement on AUKUS | Prime Minister of Australia. Www.pm.gov.au. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/joint-leaders-statement-aukus
  7. ‌‌Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. (2021, September 16). Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on September 16, 2021. Www.fmprc.gov.cn. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1907498.shtml
  8. The Global Times. (2021, September 16). AUKUS to bring “nuclear-powered submarine fever” across globe: Global Times editorial – Global Times. Www.globaltimes.cn. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202109/1234459.shtml
  9. ‌United Nations Security Council. (2001). United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/doc/1373
  10. ‌Gershman, J. (2002). Is Southeast Asia the Second Front. Www.foreignaffairs.com. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/2002-07-01/southeast-asia-second-front
  11. ‌BBC News. (2002, April 20). BBC News | ASIA-PACIFIC | US troops arrive on hostage island. Newsimg.bbc.co.uk. https://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1940708.stm
  12. The Whitehouse. (2007, November 4). The National Security Strategy 2002. Archives.gov. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/
  13. ‌Mohanty, K. (2021, September 20). EXPLAINED: Why Quad Focus On Semiconductor Chips Is All About Breaking Concentration. News18. https://www.news18.com/news/explainers/explained-why-quad-focus-on-semiconductor-chips-is-all-about-breaking-concentration-4223723.html
  14. ‌Nikkei Asia. (2021, September 18). Quad leaders to call for securing chip supply chain. Nikkei Asia. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Indo-Pacific/Quad-leaders-to-call-for-securing-chip-supply-chain
  15. ‌Kotasthane, P. (2021, April 26). Siliconpolitik: The Case for a Quad Superconductor Partnership. Nus.edu.sg. https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/siliconpolitik-the-case-for-a-quad-semiconductor-partnership/
  16. ‌Muraviev, A. (2021, September 25). How Russia will likely respond to AUKUS. Asia Times. https://asiatimes.com/2021/09/how-russia-will-likely-respond-to-aukus/
  17. ‌Sud, K. (2021, March 4). Joe Biden Pledges Deeper Ties In Indo-Pacific In National Security Plan. DefenceXP – Indian Defence Network. https://www.defencexp.com/joe-biden-pledges-deeper-ties-in-indo-pacific-in-national-security-plan/
  18. ‌Strangio, S. (2021, September 17). What Does the New AUKUS Alliance Mean for Southeast Asia? Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2021/09/what-does-the-new-aukus-alliance-mean-for-southeast-asia/
  19. ‌Asia Pacific Research Network. (2020). Weaponized Response of States to CoVID-19: Militarist trends in South Asia and Southeast Asia. https://aprnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/weaponized-response-24-09-2020.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2APIGgwRi4PGrkJShMxN0n7mBnLz7AJeCSf2uDpyK47UeIt1IHIwuGjo0
  20. Jani-Friend, I. (2021, September 20). Explainer: Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine deal is fueling anger in the country. Here’s why. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/18/australia/nuclear-energy-climate-aukus-submarines-intl-cmd/index.html