Jacinda Ardern has issued a blunt message to Australia following its nuclear submarine announcement, saying they are not welcome.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent a strong message after Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarine partnership with the UK and US was announced, saying they would not be welcome in internal waters.
A new Indo-Pacific security partnership announced by US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will see the United States and UK provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines in a bid to push back against China’s growing power and influence.
Under the deal, Australia would join an elite group of nations operating nuclear-powered subs that includes France, China, India and Russia.
Ms Ardern said she spoke to Mr Morrison about the announcement and let him know that nuclear submarines would not be allowed into New Zealand waters, which has been a nuclear-free zone since 1984.
“I discussed the arrangement with Prime Minister Morrison last night,” Ms Ardern said at a news conference.
“Certainly they couldn’t come into our internal waters,” she said, “No vessels that are partially or fully powered by nuclear energy is able to enter our internal borders.”
Ms Ardern said New Zealand was not approached to be a part of the AUKUS alliance “but nor did I expect us to be.”
“Prime Minister Morrison and indeed all partners are very well versed and understand our position on nuclear-powered vessels and nuclear weapons. That of course means they understood our likely position on the establishment of nuclear-powered submarines and their use in the region,” she said.
“The anchor of this arrangement are nuclear-powered submarines and it will be very clear to all New Zealanders and to Australia why New Zealand would not wish to be a part of that project.”
The three-way nuclear submarine pact was welcome news however for Japan and Taiwan, both having been threatened by Beijing and North Korea respectively.
Taiwan – which considers itself to be an independent nation but is viewed by Beijing as a self-governing Chinese province – fears invasion from the mainland after Xi Jinping committed himself to “reunifying” the island in a 2019 speech, saying he reserves the right to use force if necessary.
Japan has been threatened from China over several disputed islands and by its patrols, which are skirting much closer to Japanese waters.
Japan is also in a precarious position with North Korea, which now has nuclear-capable cruise missiles that can reach almost the entire Japanese mainland.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato was unsurprisingly supportive about the new pact and that nuclear powered submarines would be parked in the region by an ally.
“The strengthening of security and defence co-operation among the United States, Britain and Australia is important for the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific region,” he said in a news conference.
China was less receptive to the news that Australia would be provided with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denounced what he said was “Cold War zero-sum thinking” which threatened stability in the region and “intensifies the arms race.”
“The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology by the United States and Britain to Australia once again proves that they use nuclear exports as a tool of geopolitical games and adopt double standards, which is extremely irresponsible,” MrZhao said.
France also hit out at the deal, largely because Australia tore up its $90 billion contract to buy 12 conventionally-powered subs, having only spent $2 billion so far.
Foreign minister Yves Le-Drian said France had been “stabbed in the back”.
Defence minister Florence Parly added: “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France … shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”