Australia has abandoned its commitments under a South Pacific nuclear free accord, according to a watchdog fighting against the country’s presence in the region’s waters.
The Pacific Network on Globalisation claims nuclear proliferation risks in the Pacific has been further heightened from a new security pact involving Australia, the US and Britain.
The pact, which aims to “defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific”, has created ructions in the Pacific islands particularly over a provision of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
The advocacy group has called on Pacific Islands Forum’s leaders to immediately put Australia on notice over its concerning stance.
Australia is not only a key player at the Pacific Islands Forum but a party to the Rarotonga Treaty, which legally binds member states “not to manufacture, possess, acquire or have control of nuclear weapons” under article 3, as well as “to prevent nuclear testing in their territories” under article 6, and also prevent radioactive waste.
“Security and defence pacts today are about the Pacific Ocean – which is our home – but it has never been with Pacific people, let alone our governments,” Pacific Network on Globalisation coordinator Maureen Penjueli told Radio New Zealand.
Nuclear submarines were not scheduled to be delivered until 2040, which also effects article 5 of the Rarotonga Treaty over a ban on stationing nuclear weapons in the treaty zone.
Australia would be required to notify its actions of the weapons to the forum’s secretary-general.
The more immediate concern is that Australia’s pact could result in a wider US military presence in the Pacific after a previous accident involved the USS San Francisco nuclear submarine that in 2005 ran aground in the Pacific.
“The Pacific Ocean is not a dumping ground for nuclear materials,” she said.