International peace activists slam AUKUS pact

Photo: Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition / Facebook

A webinar organised as part of the International Peace Bureau (IPB) World Peace Conference on October 8 drew more than 100 people from across the world who .

AUKUS was announced recently by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, British PM Boris Johnson and United States President Joe Biden.

Hannah Middleton, from the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, criticised AUKUS for “tying Australia into nuclear submarines and the nuclear industry”. She said it meant Australia would become host to more US bases and US military.

“The primary purpose of AUKUS is to reassert US military control over the Indo-Pacific region. It is both a nuclear and a military pact.

“The peace movement is finding new energy in response to this aggressive pact. We will be building our anti-war coalition stronger in the future.

“We are asking for solidarity from around the world, including boycotting Australian goods. We will fight to remain nuclear-free and against all aspects of the AUKUS military alliance.”

Peter Ong, Queensland secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), said union members are angry hearing the PM’s AUKUS decision. “[The union] opposes mining uranium and the establishment of a nuclear industry.”

He said workers also feel betrayed because most of the construction of nuclear submarines will be done overseas. “Proponents of a nuclear industry have been emboldened,” Ong said, even though “the subs are likely to be made obsolete before they are even built”. We must “work hard together” to make this becomes a major issue, he said.

Pacific Outreach Officer at the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney Maria Tiimon Chi-Fang said the AUKUS pact continues the legacy of colonialism in the Pacific. A Kiribati resident, Tiimon Chi-Fang said: “Pacific Islanders are fighting for our survival in the face of military threats and the dangerous impact of climate change. The AUKUS decision is a disaster, which may lead to war in our region.”

Dave Webb, chairperson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and a vice-president of the IPB, said the British government and its allies are .

“The nuclear submarines being bought by Australia run on uranium enriched to a level of 95%,” Webb said. “This is a weapons-grade fuel, which poses the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weaponry in the region.”

He said British trade unions are divided on whether or not to support the nuclear industry. “But we are campaigning to build opposition to any expansion of nuclear power and weaponry.”

Walden Bello, chairperson of the Philippines Laban ng Masa (People’s Struggle) said the AUKUS military alliance represented “a significant escalation of the arms race in the Asia-Pacific region”.

“AUKUS means the US is pressuring its allies to become more active as military forces in the region. Australia has been pushed to adopt nuclear-powered, instead of diesel submarines, as a step toward obtaining nuclear weapons. AUKUS accentuates the naval superiority of the US over China. The US has never renounced its nuclear First Strike capacity.

“The pact re-emphasises Australia’s role as a gendarme for the US in the region. The US military will also increase its use of Australia for military training and exercises.

“AUKUS is a white, Anglo-Saxon alliance: this adds a racial dimension to this conflict, Bello said, arguing that the struggle has to be both on “the racial and anti-war fronts”.

Achin Vanaik, retired professor, writer and activist with the CND and Peace India, AUKUS had already led to nuclear proliferation. “Iran is now considering nuclear-powered submarines … There are also reactions from both India and Pakistan.”  Vanaik said the demand for a South Asian Nuclear Free Zone must be raised.

Joseph Gerson, chairperson of the US Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security and a vice-president of the IPB, described AUKUS as “an instrument for maintaining US power in the Asian region”.

There is consensus now among the US elite on the need to contain China at any cost, he said. “AUKUS undermines the prospect of US-China cooperation, which is essential to seriously tackling climate change.”

He said the peace movement in the US is beginning to make the transition from its focus on the Middle East to “confronting the US threat of war in Asia”. He said the international peace movement needs to unite to fight AUKUS and “prepare for the next stage of the US-led war drive”.