Establishing a nuclear-powered fleet in Australia, the first step of the newly announced trilateral security partnership AUKUS will see the UK and the United States partner with Australia to “significantly deepen cooperation on a range of security and defence capabilities.”
Speaking at a press conference on Sept. 16, Ardern said she was pleased to see increased engagement by the UK and the United States in the Pacific because the region is currently being contested, but declared that Australia’s new nuclear subs wouldn’t be welcome in Kiwi territory.
“New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged,” she said.
“They couldn’t come into our internal waters. Our legislation means that nothing that is … partially or fully powered by nuclear energy is able to enter into our internal waters.”
Ardern also noted that she wasn’t concerned that the new partnership would affect New Zealand’s foreign security arrangements with Australia.
“This is not a treaty-level arrangement,” she said. ” It does not change our preexisting relationships, including Five Eyes, or our close partnership with Australia on defense matters.
“This is not at the level, for instance, of our existing partnerships that include the United States, the UK, Australia, and Canada, and this does not diminish the existence of that arrangement.”
Ardern noted that she was told of the proposal on the same day by the Australian government.
“We stay in close touch on matters of importance to both of us. But as you can imagine, [Australian] Prime Minister [Scott] Morrison was also very aware New Zealand was unlikely to be interested in building nuclear-powered submarines,” she said.
New Zealand has taken a strong stance on nuclear power since the 1980s, when it banned nuclear-powered vessels from utilizing its ports or entering into its territorial waters in 1984. The ban was lifted for U.S. warships in 2012.
In 1987, the New Zealand Labor government approved the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act, making the country a nuclear-free zone.
While the act was argued to be a defining moment for New Zealand sovereignty and self-determination, it did result in the United States suspending its ANZUS treaty obligations to the country.
ANZUS—Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty—is a collective security agreement from 1951 that’s non-binding between Australia, the United States, and New Zealand. It ties the nations to respond to attacks on any other nation within the arrangement.
Despite Ardern’s assurances that AUKUS wouldn’t affect New Zealand, foreign affairs experts believe the new partnership will see the ANZUS treaty decline in importance.
“The ANZUS will fade into the background compared to this,” Joseph Siracusa, an adjunct professor of international diplomacy at Curtin University, told The Epoch Times.
“This arrangement is a reaffirmation of multilateralism, where you have several countries working together, whether it’s in trade, defense, or water, you know it’s a victory for multilateralism, as opposed to bilateralism.”
Siracusa also noted that AUKUS would be effective in opposing the regime in Beijing, which tends to “pick off its enemies one at a time.”
Former Australian Treasurer and Australian Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey told Sky News on Sept. 16 that AUKUS is “ANZUS 2.0.”
Hockey said the new partnership is a game-changer and took Australia’s defense to a new level.
“This is not just about a treaty. Importantly, it’s about shared capability and putting real and tangible effort into the sorts of things that will save our nation and protect our nation into the future,” Hockey said.