Jacinda Ardern issued a blunt message to Australia after the nuclear submarine’s announcement, saying it was not welcome.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent a strong message after announcing Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarine partnership with the United Kingdom and the United States, saying it would not be welcome in inland 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 US and UK provide Australia with technology and the ability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines in an effort to fend off the growing power and influence of China.
Under the deal, Australia will join the elite group of nations operating nuclear-powered submarines that includes France, China, India and Russia.
Ms Ardern said she had spoken to Mr Morrison about the announcement and had told him that nuclear submarines would not be allowed into the waters of New Zealand, which had been a nuclear-weapon-free zone since 1984.
“I discussed the arrangement with Prime Minister Morrison last night,” Ms Ardern said at a news conference.
“Certainly they will not be able to enter our internal waters,” she said. “No partially or wholly nuclear powered ships can enter our internal borders.”
Ms Ardern said New Zealand was not approached to be part of the AUKUS alliance “but I didn’t expect us to be like that”.
“Prime Minister Morrison and all partners are already well aware and understand our position on nuclear powered ships and nuclear weapons. This of course means that they understand our potential position on the establishment and use of nuclear powered submarines in the region.
“The basis of this arrangement is nuclear powered submarines and it will be very clear to all New Zealanders and Australia why New Zealand does not want to be a part of this project.”
The trilateral nuclear submarine agreement was good news for Japan and Taiwan, both of which have been threatened by Beijing and North Korea, respectively.
Taiwan – which considers itself an independent country but which Beijing considers an autonomous Chinese province – fears invasion from the mainland after Xi Jinping committed himself to “reunifying” the island in a 2019 speech, saying he reserved the right to use force if necessary. .
Japan was threatened by China due to the many disputed islands and their patrols that circle near Japanese waters.
Japan is also in a precarious position with North Korea, which now possesses nuclear-capable cruise missiles that can reach nearly the entire Japanese mainland.
Japanese Prime Minister Katsunobu Kato was unsurprisingly in favor of the new agreement and that nuclear-powered submarines would be stopped in the area by an ally.
“Strengthening security and defense cooperation between the United States, Britain and Australia is important to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said at a press conference.
China has been less receptive to the news that Australia will supply at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denounced what he called the “zero-thinking of the Cold War” that threatens stability in the region and “intensifies the arms race.”
“The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology by the US and Britain to Australia proves once again that they are using nuclear exports as a tool of geopolitical games and adopting double standards, which is very irresponsible,” said Mr. Zhao.
France also opposed the deal, in large part because Australia tore up its $90 billion contract to buy 12 conventionally powered submarines, having spent just $2 billion so far.
Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian said France was “stabbed in the back”.
Defense Minister Florence Parly added: “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France … shows a lack of coherence that only France can notice and regret.”