Beware AUKUS expansion
Written by: Nick G. on 30 October 2023
US imperialism wants to expand AUKUS on several levels, neither of which contribute to global peace or to Australia as an independent and sovereign nation.
Opposition to AUKUS has for very good reasons concentrated on the question of Australia acquiring at a staggering cost of at least $368 billion eight nuclear-powered submarines. This is the so-called First Pillar level of the AUKUS arrangements, and involves a tri-lateral agreement between the US, UK and Australia.
It is possible for this level of the agreement to include other nations. As early as December 2022, at the annual AUSMIN talks, the question arose of incorporating Japan into AUKUS, and there were some light-hearted references to it becoming JAUKUS.
More recently, the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee again raised the matter of expanding AUKUS to include Japan in its Second Pillar of “information sharing”, saying that its aim was to eventually invite Japan into the First Pillar nuclear-powered submarine arrangement.
However, Japanese public opinion is unlikely to support such a move. This was made clear on September 20 by Abe Nobuyasu, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and former Director-General for Arms Control and Science Affairs at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In an article for the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network, he cautioned that:
…nuclear-powered submarines would be a very different story for Japan. Unlike South Korea, which has already expressed interest in acquiring such submarines, a significant part of the Japanese population still maintains a strong aversion against anything “nuclear.” Japan continues to monitor radioactive releases from American nuclear-powered warships when they visit Japan. There is a historical precedent of Japan abandoning its civil nuclear-powered ship project after an experimental vessel named Mutsu was found to have released radioactive waste. The residents of Mutsu port refused the entry of the ship, leading to its eventual abandonment in 1990.
With the recent election of the New Zealand conservatives, the focus has shifted to Pillar 2 of AUKUS.
In 1987 New Zealand was thrown out of the Australia-New Zealand-US (ANZUS) Alliance after Wellington banned nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion from its territory. However, Pillar 2 of AUKUS relates to creating a shared platform for military expansion as defined in the following areas:
• Undersea capabilities. Through the AUKUS Undersea Robotics Autonomous Systems (AURAS) project, our nations are collaborating on autonomous underwater vehicles, which will be a significant force multiplier for our maritime forces. Initial trials and experimentation of this capability are planned for 2023.
• Quantum technologies. The AUKUS Quantum Arrangement (AQuA) will accelerate investments to deliver generation-after-next quantum capabilities. It will have an initial focus on quantum technologies for positioning, navigation, and timing. Together, we will integrate emerging quantum technologies in trials and experimentation over the next three years.
• Artificial intelligence and autonomy. Trilateral cooperation on artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy will provide critical enablers for future force capabilities, improving the speed and precision of decision-making processes to maintain a capability edge and defend against AI-enabled threats. Early work is focused on accelerating adoption, and improving the resilience of, autonomous and AI-enabled systems in contested environments.
• Advanced Cyber. In light of the importance of the cyber domain to advanced capabilities, we are focusing our efforts on strengthening cyber capabilities, including protecting critical communications and operations systems.
• Hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The AUKUS partners will work together to accelerate development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities.
• Electronic warfare. The electromagnetic spectrum is increasingly contested. The three countries will work together to share understanding of tools, techniques, and technology to enable our forces to operate in contested and degraded environments.
• Innovation. Our work on innovation aims to accelerate our respective defense innovation enterprises and learn from one another, including ways to more rapidly integrate commercial technologies to solve warfighting needs.
• Information sharing. We will expand and accelerate sharing of sensitive information, including as a first priority enabling workstreams that underpin our work on agreed areas of advanced capabilities.
New Zealand Nationals leader and Prime Minister Chris Luxon has confirmed that New Zealand is looking to join Pillar 2. If Japan and South Korea also join Pillar 2, it will mean an expanded development of war capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
The other area of AUKUS expansion is outer space. We have already commented on US plans for expansion of AUKUS to include the space domain. On October 27, further details emerged of these plans, namely a redrafting of US Space Command’s Joint Publication 3-14 (JP 3-14): Joint Space Operations.
This includes more clearly establishing the fact that SPACECOM and the other combatant commands will conduct “offensive and defensive space operations” during conflict, using “direct or enabling” capabilities against adversary space assets — that is, spacecraft on orbit, terrestrial control stations and/or the data links between them. It also details SPACECOM’s area of responsibility (AOR) in joint operations.
The new JP 3-14 introduces the term “astrographic” to describe SPACECOM’s area of responsibility, which starts at 100 kilometers (54 nautical miles) above mean sea level. It says that SPACECOM’s AOR is “defined by altitudes rather than a nations’ borders or latitude/longitudinal coordinates.” It stretches into “exgeosynchronous” orbit — that is, beyond about 36,000 kilometers (about 19,000 nautical miles) above mean sea level.
Another change in the new JP 3-14 is the avoidance of the terms “space control” and “counterspace” in acknowledgement that space control “implies ownership,” which could be read as counter to the UN 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Euphemisms are the first refuge of the dishonest and it is of some concern that the US is now prepared to ditch terms which over many years have been used as code for offensive space operations and the weaponry to support them.
It is in this context that the new agreement signed between Albanese and Biden on October 26 needs to be seen. The two countries have signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement that will create more opportunities for US space companies to launch space vehicles from Australia. Underscoring the military implications is the design of the agreement – it seeks to protect sensitive US space launch technology and data. According to the online US Breaking Defense in a comment on the Biden-Albanese meeting:
The US Space Force is keenly interested in the capability to launch military payloads from Australia and the wider Southern Hemisphere.
Most spacecraft are launched eastward to take advantage of the speed boost provided by the Earth’s rotation, and the closer to the equator — where the Earth’s surface spins the fastest due to the laws of physics — the launch takes place, the bigger that boost. Australia is not only fairly close to the equator, but also launching eastward from the continent allows easier orbital insertion over China.
Any plans for the expansion of AUKUS run counter to the objective of an independent and peaceful Australia.
They need close and careful scrutiny by all who refuse to see further surrendering of Australian sovereignty to the US war machine.
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