How the Australian horn is destabilizing the world: Daniel

Beijing’s conversion of this prowess into significant military and diplomatic might is now altering the global balance of power

How the AUKUS pact could destabilise China, and the rest of the word

By Chris Ogden9th October

CHINA’S dramatic accumulation of economic power over the last 40 years has increasingly focused the attention of western countries upon Asia.

Beijing’s conversion of this prowess into significant military and diplomatic might is now altering the global balance of power. It also suggests that while ­China is rising to international pre-eminence, countries such as the US and the UK are in relative – if not terminal – decline.

At stake in these dynamics is who ­determines the nature of the world order in which international politics takes place but also if this transformation can happen peacefully and will be accepted by all ­involved.

Central to such an outlook from a ­western perspective are attempts to ­present China as an imminent threat to the international system. Such ­narratives claim that Beijing is seeking to use its ­economic and military might to take over the world in a manner akin to that of the US, who effectively dominated the world since the end of the Second World War until the early 21st century.

READ MORE: Iraq and the Balkans remind us of the power of the people

This viewpoint overlooks Beijing’s repeated insistence upon wishing for a peaceful international system in which several countries hold power. It also ­ignores 2000 years of Chinese history ­during which China dominated Asia, but not the world, and who reigned based more upon respect than brute force.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wishes to restore this past status, which was debased for over a century prior to 1949, and began with the Opium Wars with the British in 1839-42, and also included long periods of war, invasion and then occupation by Japan.

This period of shame is known ­within China as the “Century of ­Humiliation”, and was characterised by chaos, ­uncertainty and instability. Used as a touchstone for nationalism, it included China losing its regional supremacy to ­Japan, which ­remains as a ­significant point of friction between the two sides. Not only did Japan occupy parts of ­China, its forces also ­carried out ­atrocities against the population – most ­notoriously the Nanjing Massacre of 1937-8 that ­resulted in between 40,000 and 300,000 deaths (and which is still denied by ­Japanese ­nationalists to this day).

Importantly too, Japan’s occupation also saw the loss of territory in the form of Taiwan (then known as Formosa), as well as related Chinese claims ­concerning some small islands in the South China Sea. When the 1919 Treaty of Versailles wrongly transferred German-occupied portions of Shandong to Japanese control rather than back to China, it also bred a deep-seated suspicion towards the west.

Any actions by western countries that seek to limit China’s regional ­power ­immediately trigger such historical ­memories not only for CCP leaders but also for a population that is well-educated in their history.

The announcement of the AUKUS pact between the US, the UK and ­Australia, that heightens the west’s ­military ­presence in the Indo-Pacific, typifies such ­triggering. So too will the upcoming meeting of “the Quad” (between the US, Japan, Australia and India) where its various leaders will proclaim a need to bolster democracy in the region as part of their “rules-based” international order. Such aims have been – and will be – interpreted by Beijing as being essentially anti-China, and due to highly virulent nationalist voices in the country, will force CCP leaders to openly and decisively respond.

The AUKUS pact is also indicative of the lengths to which western powers fear that their status is threatened by China. Apart from burning many ­diplomatic bridges between the EU and the ­members of AUKUS, by giving Australia access to sensitive technology in the form of ­nuclear powered submarines, the deal tacitly encourages nuclear proliferation.

It also acts, from Beijing’s ­perspective, as a new threatening element in the ­Indo-Pacific region that actively seeks to limit, if not derail, its development and modernisation goals. These goals are ­essential to China restoring its past status as Asia’s number one power.

In these ways, it is unsurprising that China will now seek to enhance its own military capabilities, and as such the AUKUS pact reduces – rather than ­maximises – regional security.

It also augments the perception ­within some nationalist and military circles in China that such moves by the west will affect China’s ability to reclaim ­Taiwan, which is central to overturning the ­injustices of the Century of Humiliation.

Such fears explain in part why ­China has carried out so many incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone in the last weeks, which are occurring at an ­unprecedented level. Such incursions are also done to test Taiwan’s defensive capabilities and to put pressure upon its pilots but concurrently increase western and regional perceptions that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is imminent.

Such reactions and counter-reactions, accompanied by increasingly histrionic rhetoric, again only serve to increase ­tensions on all sides and do little to foster stability.

Chinese suspicions concerning western intentions were recently only increased further when US President Biden ­announced to the United Nations that “for the first time in 20 years the United States is not at war. We’ve turned the page” despite the fact that the US has ­active troops in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

In total, across 80 countries, the US also still has 800 active military bases (versus 70 bases across the world held by all ­other countries). When heightened by negative historical memories, western actions are thus regarded as ­hypocritical and ­duplicitous. This is ­especially so in light of the huge failed invasions ­regarding ­Afghanistan and Iraq that bought ­insecurity to Central Asia and the Middle East.

In turn, western strategic thinkers ­appear to have neglected to consider the impact of AUKUS upon North Korea, which continues to enhance its nuclear weapons capability and does so – partly – out of fear of a western intervention.

Given the militarising effect that AUKUS will have on the region, ­Pyongyang will continue to develop such a capacity and we can expect to see more weapons and missiles tests, which again will act as a catalyst for further destabilising forces in the Indo-Pacific, which are on China’s southern border.

SEEN in the context of a wider narrative that attempts to situate China-Western relations within that of a “new Cold War”, the potential for further competition and friction is palpable.

Not only is such a narrative misplaced – in that the globalised, highly inter-connected world is no longer split into two separate trade and diplomatic blocs – it also casts China as the new enemy of the west despite very deep-seated ties ­between the two sides.

These primarily include – in 2020 – China being the top trading partner of the US (with $560.10 billion in trade), Japan ($141.6 billion), Australia ($90.6 billion) and India ($77.70 billion). It was also the third highest trade partner of the UK (at $18.6 billion), after the US and the EU.

Such ties beggar the question; if China is such a major threat to global ­stability, why do these countries have such ­deep-seated economic relations with it?

China is also a vital partner concerning the climate emergency and managing the global financial system, and is essential to the world finding solutions to such major issues. Pressuring China through AUKUS would appear to be counter-intuitive in solving such questions and may cause China to embolden the economic and ­diplomatic ties that it is building across Asia and the world.

In particular, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is investing between

$1 and $8 trillion in railway, road, and sea route infrastructure, as well as ­construction, real estate, and power grids. This investment is attracting other ­countries to Beijing, and by extension greatly reduces relative western influence in global politics. Building such ­“win-win” ties that are not based upon military force and coercion also helps China to present itself as a more peaceful and more stable alternative to the west.

Notwithstanding the human rights concerns apparent in Xinjiang or the ­increased control and surveillance of the Chinese population through the Social Credit System, the AUKUS pact and the western insecurities will thus ­undoubtedly fuel destabilise the ­Indo-Pacific region.

If a conflict is forced over China’s ­territorial claims relating to Taiwan or islands in the South China Sea, the ­consequences will be devastating.

These relate to the human cost of any conflict – in which Chinese, and arguably western, leaders will not wish to be seen to back down – but also concerning the ­resultant damage to the global economy, which with China at its epicentre will ­precipitate a decades-long worldwide depression.

The ramifications of such a conflict will be felt everywhere, including in Scotland, and must make us ask why the UK ­Government is seemingly on a pathway that facilitates such an eventuality.

READ MORE: El Salvador: The Scottish people who emigrated to Latin America

Coming at a time when much of the British economy is visibly convulsing from the country’s withdrawal from the EU, as well as the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must also ­question the value of such badly thought through consequences of the AUKUS pact.

AS a country that is firmly in decline on the world stage, the instinct to punch above its weight and to side with the US no matter the consequences remains (and has little heed for the lessons from the disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq).

This hubris only underlines the ­perilous nature of contemporary UK foreign ­policy, and the unintended consequences that trying to grasp on to the country’s past status will bring.

Chris Ogden is Senior Lecturer in Asian Security at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews

The Australian Horn joins the war outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. Picture: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. Picture: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Joint committee hears Australia should classify Hamas ‘in its entirety’ as terrorist organisation

The head of Australia’s domestic intelligence agency has made a bold declaration about Palestinian group Hamas.

The head of Australia’s domestic spy agency has thrown his support behind listing the entirety of Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess said he did not have an issue with the listing the entire Palestinian group.

“Yes I would support it, but I am not the decision maker,” Mr Burgess told a parliamentary inquiry on Friday.

“There is a difference between Hamas and people who consider themselves Palestinian. If they support Hamas, then they would be supporting a terrorist organisation.”

At present, Australia only recognises the group’s paramilitary wing as a terror group.

But Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of a pro-Israel group known as the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said the idea of “wings” within Hamas was fiction.

Dr Schanzer said the Home Affairs Minister should list the entirety of Hamas under the Criminal Code. 

“There is no separating the Izz-Add brigades (the paramilitary) from the broader organisation,” he said on Friday.

“This is a fiction perpetuated by those who wish to engage with elements of the terrorist group.

“The entry of Hamas should be listed as a terrorist group in Australia and around the world.”

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has been urged by experts to follow the lead of Canada, the EU and the US in classifying all of Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has been urged by experts to follow the lead of Canada, the EU and the US in classifying all of Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan and the United States have designated the entirety of Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

In order to be listed as a terrorist organisation, an agency would need to nominate Hamas to the Department of Home Affairs.

There is no nomination for the broader group before the department, but representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Home Affairs confirmed to the committee they could make a nomination themselves.

Mr Burgess said broadening the listing to include the entire organisation would not have an impact on ASIO’s work, nor would it “present broader national security concerns”.

Burnt cars in the Israeli town of Holon near Tel Aviv, on May 11, 2021, after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas. (Picture: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
Burnt cars in the Israeli town of Holon near Tel Aviv, on May 11, 2021, after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas. (Picture: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

He said Hamas brigades were assessed as a threat to military and civilian targets in Israel.

“As a consequence, they remain a security concern to ASIO, and we support the listing,” Mr Burgess said.

“ASIO has assessed (the brigades) as a highly capable terror organisation that are committed to using terror tactics in targeting Israel.”

Listing all of Hamas as a terrorist organisation would expose its supporters to counter-terrorism laws.
The committee has been asked to review whether Al-Shabaab; the Kurdistan Workers’ Party; Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; as well as Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades will continue to be listed as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code. 

This will be the ninth time Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades will be relisted.

In anticipation of the New Zealand nuclear horn: Daniel 7

With the AUKUS alliance confronting China, New Zealand should ramp up its anti-nuclear diplomacy

OPINION: New Zealand might not be part of the recently revealed security agreement between the US, Britain and Australia (AUKUS), but it certainly can’t avoid the diplomatic and strategic fallout.

Under the pact, Australia stands to gain nuclear-powered submarine capability, with the US seeking greater military basing rightsin the region. ASEAN allies have had to be reassured over fears the region is being nuclearised.

Unsurprisingly, China and Russia both reacted negatively to the AUKUS arrangement. France, which lost out on a lucrative submarine contract with Australia, felt betrayed and offended.

Johnson tells Macron to ‘get a grip’ over AUKUS submarine deal

Boris Johnson has dismissed French anger about the Australian submarines deal, insisting Emmanuel Macron should “get a grip”.

But behind the shifting strategic priorities the new agreement represents – specifically, the rise of an “Indo-Pacific” security focus aimed at containing China – lies a nuclear threat that is growing.

Already there have been warnings from China that AUKUS could put Australia in the atomic cross-hairs. Of course, it probably already was, with the Pine Gap intelligence facility a likely target.

While New Zealand’s nuclear-free statusmakes it a less obvious target, it is an integral part of the Five Eyes intelligence network. Whether that would make the Waihopai spy base an attractive target in a nuclear conflict is known only to the country’s potential enemies.

What we do know, however, is that nuclear catastrophe remains a very real possibility. According to the so-called Doomsday Clock, it is currently 100 seconds to midnight – humanity’s extinction point should some or all of the planet’s 13,100 nuclear warheads be launched.

The US and Russia account for most of these, with 1550 many of these deployed on high alert (meaning they can be fired within 15 minutes of an order) and thousands more stockpiled.

The other members of the “nuclear club” – France, Britain, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan and China – are estimated to possess over 1000 more.

Most of these warheads are much larger than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. US, Russian and Chinese investment in the development of a new generation of hypersonic missiles has raised fears of a new arms race.

From New Zealand’s point of view, this is more than disappointing. Having gone nuclear free in the 1980s, it worked hard to export the policy and promote disarmament. The high-tide was in 2017 when 122 countries signed the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

But the nine nuclear-capable countries simply shrugged. The Trump administration even wrote to the signatories to say they had made “a strategic error” that “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament” and urged them to rescind their ratification.

President Donald Trump then began popping rivets out of the international frameworks keeping the threat of nuclear war in check. He quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which prohibited short- to medium-range nukes in Europe, and the Open Skies agreement, which allowed flights through national air space to monitor compliance.

He also quit the multi-national agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear programme (despite Iran’s compliance) and failed to denuclearise North Korea, despite much fanfare. The bilateral START agreement limiting US and Russian nukes survived, but China rebuffed Trump’s idea of a trilateral nuclear pact.

Nor is the clock ticking backwards with Joe Biden in the White House. Although he extended START, the Iran deal hasn’t been resurrected and there’s been no breakthrough with a still provocative North Korea.

Both the INF and the Open Skies agreements lie dormant, and the AUKUS pact has probably seen US-Chinese relations hit a new low.

While it makes sense for New Zealand to maintain and promote its nuclear-free policy, it must also be pragmatic about reducing tension and risk, particularly in its own region. Being outside the AUKUS agreement and being on good terms with China is a good start.

Not being a nuclear state might mean New Zealand lacks clout or credibility in such a process. But the other jilted ally outside the AUKUS relationship, France, is both a nuclear power and has strong interests in the region.

Like China, France sits outside the main framework of US-Russia nuclear regulation. Now may well be the time for France to turn its anger over the AUKUS deal into genuine leadership and encourage China into a rules-based system. This is where New Zealand could help.

The Christchurch Call initiative, led by Jacinda Ardern and French president Emmanuel Macron after the 2019 terrorist attack, shows New Zealand and France can cooperate well. Now may be the chance to go one step further, where the country that went nuclear-free works with the country that bombed the Rainbow Warrior, and together start to talk to China.

This would involve discussions about weapons verification and safety measures in the Indo-Pacific region, including what kinds of thresholds might apply and on what terms nuclear parity might be established and reduced.

Such an initiative might be difficult and slow – and for many hard to swallow. But New Zealand has the potential to be an honest broker, and has a voice that just might be heard above the ticking of that clock.

As UN Secretary General António Guterres warned only last week: “We are on the edge of an abyss and moving in the wrong direction. Our world has never been more threatened or more divided.”

Alexander Gillespie is a Professor of Law at the University of Waikato.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia goes nuclear-Some see a proliferation threat: Daniel 7

Australia will get nuclear-powered submarines. Some see a proliferation threat.

The U.S. has shared this type of technology before — with France, in fact.

The new AUKUS security partnership led to an immediate diplomatic fallout between France and the United States. But beyond the concerns about NATO and the Western alliance, or questions about great-power competition in the Pacific, some analysts see another worry: Will sharing nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia set back the nuclear nonproliferation regime?

What does this deal mean for nonproliferation? Have such transfers of nuclear submarine technology occurred in the past? Here are four things to know.

1. What does the deal involve?

The first major AUKUS initiative will help Australia acquire a conventionally armed submarine fleet that’s powered by nuclear reactors. The fleet will consist of at least eight such submarines and the final deal will be negotiated in the next 18 months. The submarines will be built in South Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasized that “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability.” Along with the submarines, Australia will buy a number of conventional long-range strike weapons like the Tomahawk missile, and other precision strike guided weapons systems through AUKUS.

2. What are the nuclear proliferation concerns?

According to President Biden, the nuclear technology transfer will occur in accordance to the verification standards and “in partnership and consultation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, the specifics of this deal aren’t clear, leaving a number of big questions. Which parts of the submarine will be built in Australia? Will the U.K. and U.S. build the nuclear reactors for the submarines and then hand them over to Australia — or will Australia build the reactors from scratch? Most importantly, given that the U.S. and the U.K. submarine reactors use highly enriched weapons-grade uranium fuel, will this uranium enrichment take place in Australia?

Some studies suggest that even with International Atomic Energy Agency stipulations, the system has a well-known loophole: Nonnuclear weapon countries can remove fissile material from the safeguards regime and use it in non-weapon-related military applications like fueling nuclear submarine reactors.

The presence of highly enriched uranium outside of the international safeguards regime could be a proliferation threat, as this material will have to be kept secure. However, the other side of the argument is that submarines with highly enriched uranium cores pose less of a proliferation risk. This is because the cores can last the lifetime of the submarine, and do not require any refueling. Furthermore, they can be sealed and delivered by the supplier nation and then taken back at the end of the submarine’s deployment for safe disposal.

The larger worry, perhaps, is that the AUKUS transaction will set a bad precedentfor other transfers of nuclear submarines and nuclear reactors for naval propulsion. This possibility prompts fears of a proliferation cascade leading to similar deals for naval reactors between Russia and China, India and France, and Pakistan and China. Iran, too, is considering the use of highly enriched uranium for submarine propulsion.

3. French Nuclear Forces enjoyed a similar arrangement

The transfer of sensitive naval propulsion technology from the United States to its allies has many precedents. Despite France’s outrage at the AUKUS submarine arrangement, the French nuclear submarine program was a prominent beneficiary of a similar arrangement with the United States.

Recently declassified documents reveal that in 1958, France approached the United States for help building its nuclear submarine. The U.S. supplied France with 440 kilograms of highly enriched uranium under a bilateral agreement between the two countries on the use of atomic energy for mutual defense. The transfer was under the condition that the uranium could only be used by France in a land-based installation. So the first French naval propulsion reactor (the Prototype à Terre, or PAT reactor) was a land-based one.

This reactor was key to France’s ability to build its first nuclear submarines, which were equipped with first-generation naval nuclear reactors identical to the PAT. Shortly after, France moved to a second generation of naval propulsion reactors that relied on low enriched uranium. In fact, the considerable U.S. assistance to the French nuclear program was key to France’s ability to build up its nuclear forces.

Similarly, the first British nuclear-powered submarine, the HMS Dreadnought — commissioned in 1963 — used a U.S. Westinghouse-designed submarine reactor.

4. Is there reason to worry?

The main nonproliferation concern with the AUKUS deal is that it might spark off a proliferation cascade in which other countries transfer similar nuclear technology. For example, if Pakistan and Iran acquire naval reactors from other countries because of the precedent set by AUKUS, or if the deal leads to greater cooperation between Russia and China on naval nuclear propulsion, the goal of a safer, more secure, and stable Indo-Pacific may fail. From a nuclear security perspective, such a cascade also would be worrisome because the recipient nations could divert their nuclear materials toward the development of nuclear explosive devices.

Are the nonproliferation concerns from the AUKUS agreement being blown out of proportion, given the precedents? The United States provided both France and the U.K. with nuclear propulsion technology and nuclear materials throughout the Cold War without any loss of nuclear material — at least to public knowledge — or proliferation cascades of naval propulsion technology. Indeed, the United States’ constant creation of “exceptions” to the norms of nonproliferation, as these examples show, demonstrate that the nonproliferation regime has space to accommodate such potentially destabilizing arrangements.

Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Administration and the three AUKUS countries have almost two decades to come to an agreement about the safety of any future transfer of nuclear material. Australia is likely to deploy the first submarines produced via this deal in 2040. In the meanwhile, it’s likely that Australia will lease nuclear submarines from the U.K. or the United States while it waits to build a new submarine fleet. This type of lease deal also has a precedent in the Indo-Pacific, where India has been operating nuclear-powered attack submarines leased from Russia, aimed toward keeping a close eye on China’s naval presence.

Professors: Check out TMC’s expanding list of classroom topic guides.

(@debakd) is a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University.

The Australian Nuclear Horn Challenges China: Daniel 7

Nuclear subs in Australia will challenge the nonproliferation regime, and China

Nuclear subs in Australia will challenge the nonproliferation regime, and China

By George M. Moore and Frank N. von Hippel, Opinion ContributorsSeptember 22, 2021 – 03:00 PM EDT

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill 

President Biden and the prime ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom announced on Sept. 15, as the first action in their new AUKUS defense agreement, the sale to Australia of nuclear submarine technology to replace an existing Australian deal with France for conventional submarines. The plan is to build the submarines in Australia with assistance, and perhaps components, from the UK and U.S.

The announcement surprised many, including the French government, whose foreign minister referred to the decision as a “stab in the back.”

The Biden administration has touted the agreement as a counter to growing Chinese naval intimidation of Australia and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. It appears likely, however, that any beneficial impacts on China will be offset by negative impacts on the nuclear weapons nonproliferation regime. Other non-nuclear-armed states, such as South Korea and Iran, are likely to be incentivized to acquire nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. and UK, or perhaps Russia or China. 

The AUKUS deal is especially problematic because U.S. and UK nuclear-powered submarines use weapon-grade highly-enriched uranium (HEU) as fuel. An obvious presumption therefore is that the Australian submarines too will be fueled with HEU drawn from the U.S. Cold War surplus. 

It is hard to understate what a departure the Australian plan is from prior U.S. policy. In the 1980s, the U.S. pressured France and the UK not to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Canada due to the perceived negative impact on the nonproliferation regime. U.S. nonproliferation policy has also had a bedrock principle of reducing the global availability and use of HEU. It would be folly for the U.S. to now export weapon-grade uranium to non-nuclear-armed states after spending more than a billion dollars since 9/11 to convert research reactors that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had exported to dozens of countries from weapon-grade to low enriched uranium fuel.

Since Australia does not have a commercial nuclear power program (it does have a research reactor) and no military support facilities for nuclear-powered vessels at this point, it will probably have to rely initially on the U.S. or UK for both personnel training and support for nuclear infrastructure development. Given the strong historic relation between the Royal Australian Navy and UK’s Royal Navy, the UK might provide initial training for submarine cadres to man the new Australian nuclear submarine force. 

The ultimate creation of a nuclear submarine force in Australia will take decades. Therefore, Australia might follow India’s model and start by renting a nuclear submarine from either the U.S. or UK. India rented two submarines: The first from the Soviet Union and then a second from Russia, before building its own nuclear submarine, whose design appears to be based to a significant degree on its second leased submarine. Acquiring a U.S. or UK submarine, possibly with a joint crew, could be a big first step forward for an Australian nuclear submarine program.

If the AUKUS plan goes forward, a significant question is whether the proliferation risks associated with HEU could be reduced by developing propulsion reactors fueled with non-weapon-usable low-enriched-uranium (LEU). France and China already use LEU to fuel their naval reactors. Russia and India use HEU fuel, although not weapon-grade.

Despite encouragement from Congress over the past 25 years, the U.S. Navy has vehemently rejected designing its future submarines to be powered by LEU. The principal argument is that the reactor core would have to be larger or would have to be refueled once or twice. The U.S. Navy’s current reactors are designed to be life-of-the-ship, which the Navy considers to be a significant cost and time savings. U.S. refueling cycles have kept U.S. submarines in shipyards for over a year to carry out refuelings, although France has developed robotic refueling arrangements through hatches that have reduced that time to a few weeks.

After the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile peaked in 1964, the U.S. continued to produce weapon-grade uranium for naval reactor fuel until 1992. For the past two decades, U.S. and UK submarines have been fueled with HEU from more than 10,000 U.S. nuclear warheads that became excess at the end of the Cold War. This source will run out by around 2060. In order to maintain HEU fueled submarines and aircraft carriers, the U.S. will soon need to study and fund a very expensive new facility to produce HEU. Providing HEU fuel for Australia will accelerate the need for a new facility.

The Biden administration could also look at the Australian development program as an additional motivation to shift U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers to LEU fuel. That would avoid the need for the U.S. setting the dangerous example of developing a new HEU production facility after the existing supply is used up. Australia, France, the U.S. and UK could also work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to deal with the safeguard issues that arise from the military use of nuclear reactors in non-nuclear-weapon states. That too would be made much easier if the submarines were fueled with low-enriched uranium.

Should there be interest in the Biden administration to patch things up with France, it might explore bringing France back into the Australian submarine program to provide its expertise on LEU-fueled submarines. 

George M. Moore is a scientist-in-residence at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He was previously a staff member at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and was a senior analyst at the International Atomic Energy Agency.Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist, is professor of public and international affairs emeritus in Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.

China threatens the Australian Nuclear Horn with missile attack: Daniel

China threatens Australia with missile attack | The Strategist

China threatens Australia with missile attack

In the face of an increasing torrent of abuse from Beijing, Canberra should seek a much clearer commitment from Washington that its United States ally will retaliate if China launches a missile attack against Australia.

As far as Australia is concerned, the growing torrent of threats and bullying from Beijing mean that we need to have a much clearer understanding from our American ally about extended deterrence—not just nuclear deterrence but also conventional deterrence against Chinese long-range theatre missiles with conventional warheads.

In May, the editor-in-chief of Beijing’s Global Times newspaper, which generally reflects the views of the Chinese Communist Party, threatened Australia with ‘retaliatory punishment’ with missile strikes ‘on the military facilities and relevant key facilities on Australian soil’ if we were to send Australian troops to coordinate with the US and wage war with China over Taiwan.

The specific threat made by Hu Xijin was as follows: ‘China has a strong production capability, including producing additional long-range missiles with conventional warheads that target military objectives in Australia when the situation becomes highly tense.’

The key phrase here is ‘long-range missiles with conventional warheads’. But it’s virtually impossible, even with the most sophisticated intelligence methods, to detect reliably any difference between a missile with a conventional warhead and one with a nuclear warhead. This is made more difficult by the fact that China co-locates its conventional and nuclear theatre missile forces.

But why the emphasis on ’conventional warheads’? This may be Beijing trying to show that it still adheres to its ‘no first use’ declaratory policy on nuclear weapons. But it may also be aimed at restraining any US strikes on China in retaliation for a missile attack on Australia.

However, Beijing is not only naive about how Washington might be prevailed upon to accept the difference between conventional and nuclear strikes. There’s the additional problem that some of the ‘relevant key facilities on Australian soil’ would be important for the US’s understanding of the nature of such a conflict and whether escalation could be controlled. For example, taking out the joint US–Australian intelligence facilities at Pine Gap near Alice Springs might be seen in Washington as an attempt to blind the US to any warnings of deliberate nuclear escalation by Beijing.

During the Cold War, this sort of danger was well understood. In my experience in the late 1970s and 1980s, Moscow made it clear to us that attacks on Pine Gap, Nurrungar and North West Cape would only occur in the context of an all-out nuclear war. The Soviet leaders knew that blinding Washington in the early stages of a nuclear exchange would be a foolish act, not helping any prospects of the management of escalation control.

The problem with Beijing is that it has no experience in high-level nuclear arms negotiation with any other country. It doesn’t understand the value of detailed discussions about nuclear warfighting. This is a dangerous gap in Chinese understanding about war—especially as its strategic nuclear warheads, which number in the low 200s according to the Pentagon, are barely credible as a second-strike capability and its submarines armed with strategic nuclear weapons are noisy.

However, US estimates suggest that China is planning to double its strategic nuclear forces and recent media reports claim that Beijing is building more than 100 new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles in the northwest of the country. If true, this is a strange development because ICBMs in fixed silos are becoming more vulnerable with the increased accuracy of nuclear strikes. China’s recent ICBMs have been road-mobile for precisely this reason. The only rational explanation for new fixed-silo ICBMs is that they’re designed for a new launch-on-warning posture, which suggests new developments in China’s early warning capabilities.

In addition to its strategic nuclear warheads, Beijing has about 2,000 theatre nuclear missiles capable of targeting much of the Indo-Pacific. The majority of them are nuclear-armed, but some of the optionally conventionally armed variants (such as the 4,000-kilometre-range DF-26) can reach the north of Australia.

The main point here for Australia is that unless we acquire missiles with ranges in excess of 4,000 kilometres, we won’t be able to retaliate against any attack on us. But, in any case, for a country of our size to consider attacking the territory of a large power like China isn’t a credible option.

So, resolving the threat posed by the Global Times depends on Washington making it clear to Beijing that any missile attack on Australia, as America’s closest ally in the Indo-Pacific region, would provoke an immediate response by the US on China itself.

America has an overwhelming superiority in being able to deliver prompt global conventional precision strikes.

Beijing also needs to understand that because of the density and geographical distribution of its population, it is the most vulnerable among continental-size countries to nuclear war. The virtual conurbation that extends from Beijing in the north via Shanghai to Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the south would make it particularly susceptible to massive destruction in an all-out nuclear war.

The US has 1,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and another 5,000 stockpiled or ‘retired’. (Russia has a similar number of strategic nuclear warheads, totalling about 6,800.) America has more than enough nuclear warfighting capabilities to take on both China and Russia. In the Cold War, the Pentagon planned on destroying a quarter of the Soviet Union’s population and half its industry. For comparison, a quarter of China’s population is about 350 million. In such a nuclear war, China would no longer exist as a functioning modern society.

It might be time we considered acquiring a missile system capable of defending us against ballistic missile attack. The first step could be to fit this capability to the air warfare destroyers, while noting that a nationwide capability would need to be much more extensive.

But in the final analysis, we depend upon the United States—as the only military superpower in the world—to deter China from escalation dominance and its threatened use of ballistic missiles against us.

Paul Dibb is emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. He is a former deputy secretary of the Department of Defence and former director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation. Image: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images.

The Australian nuclear horn continues to grow: Daniel 7

Australia Accelerates Missile Program With Its U.S. Ally

Jason Scott

March 30, 2021, 9:12 PM MDT

Australia is liaising with its U.S. ally to accelerate a A$1 billion ($761 million) program designed to create a sovereign guided-missile program, a move that could add to its friction with China.

“We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia’s needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement Wednesday.

Blinken Says U.S. Won’t Force ‘Us-or-Them’ Choice With China

The announcement comes after Australia and the U.S. — which have both had increasing tensions with China — in November signed an agreement to develop and test hypersonic cruise missile prototypes, with long-range strike capabilities. The deal is under the nations’ 15-year Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) program, which studies hypersonic scramjets, rocket motors, sensors, and advanced manufacturing materials.

China has warned any country accepting the deployment of intermediate-range American missiles would face retaliation. In recent years regional tensions have ratcheted up as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have poured money into some of the world’s most advanced missiles systems, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been modernizing his arsenal designed to attack the U.S. and its allies.

Within Range

China’s missile arsenal now covers most U.S. Pacific allies

Sources: Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation and the Office of the Secretary of Defense

Note: Calculations by the United States Studies Centre

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In October 2019, Xi paraded through Beijing a variety of weapons intended to offset American advantages in any conflict, including the DF-17 missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle, which is designed to make warheads almost impossible to intercept.

The latest in global politicsGet insight from reporters around the world in the Balance of Power newsletter.

“The Americans are looking to invest very large amounts of money in advanced missile technology, especially as they realize they are playing catch-up to a large extent” with China and Russia, said Paul Dibb, an emeritus professor in strategic and defense studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. “The Chinese have got nearly 2,000 theater ballistic missiles, some of them with ranges of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.”

For more on regional security:

• China’s Advanced Weaponry on Parade Sends a Message to the U.S.

• U.S. Denies Pressing Allies on Missiles That Raised China’s Ire

• How Kim Jong Un Keeps Advancing His Nuclear Program: QuickTake

• U.S. Cites Threat to Carriers From Chinese Anti-Ship Missile

Japan’s Defense Ministry took steps toward a greater strike capability in 2017, when it allocated 2.2 billion yen ($20 million) for an air-to-surface Joint Strike Missile. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated 13.6 billion yen more for the cruise missiles, which can be mounted on F-35s.

‘Unmistakable Message’

The U.S. intended to discuss deploying medium-range missiles with its Asian allies to counter the immediate threat of China’s nuclear buildup, the Nikkei Asian Review reported in August. It cited Marshall Billingslea, U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control, as saying that a medium-range, non-nuclear, ground-launched cruise missile under development in the U.S. had the defensive capability that countries such as Japan will need.

Earlier this month, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Phil Davidson, said China’s military executed a coordinated test launch into the South China Sea of its top anti-ship ballistic missile, which is capable of attacking aircraft carriers in the western Pacific, in an “unmistakable message.”

Dutton’s department is selecting a strategic industry partner to operate the missile program’s manufacturing capability, which could lead to export opportunities, he said. Wednesday’s statement, which didn’t directly link the sovereign guided-missile program with November’s hypersonic cruise missile program announcement, cited estimates by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank that Australia would spend A$100 billion in the next 20 years on missile and guided-weapons purchases.

(Updates with details on missiles.)

Our Allied Nuclear Horns: Daniel 7

When Allies Go Nuclear

How to Prevent the Next Proliferation Threat

By February 12, 2021

The year is 2030. Seismic monitors have just detected an unforeseen underground atomic explosion, signaling that yet another country has joined the growing club of nuclear-armed states. There are now 20 such countries, more than double the number in 2021. To the surprise of many, the proliferation has come not from rogue states bent on committing nuclear blackmail but from a group of countries usually seen as cautious and rule abiding: U.S. allies. Even though they had forsworn acquiring nuclear capabilities decades earlier when they signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), these allies changed their minds and withdrew from the agreement, a move that triggered yet more defections as nations across the world raced to acquire the bomb. And so the number of nuclear decision-makers multiplied, raising the odds of a terrifying possibility: that one of these powerful weapons might go off.

Far-fetched? Perhaps, but this scenario is more plausible now than

The Australian and American Nuclear Horns Join Forces: Daniel 7

Australia, U.S. Teaming to Develop High-Tech Cruise Missiles

EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

The United States and Australia have joined forces to build air-launched hypersonic cruise missiles that could shift the military balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Defense officials see hypersonics as potentially game-changing weapons. Their ability to travel at speeds greater than Mach 5 with extraordinary maneuverability could provide U.S. and allied forces a new quick-strike option capable of overwhelming enemy defenses, experts say.

The new U.S.-Australian project known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment, or SCIFiRE, is an Allied Prototyping Initiative that was formally announced by the two nations in December. The aim is to advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-size prototypes that are cost-effective and provide “a flexible, long-range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions.”

“This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the U.S. and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” Michael Kratsios, U.S. acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said in a press release.

High-ranking Australian officials are also touting the bilateral effort.

“The SCIFiRE initiative is another opportunity to advance … our Air Combat Capability Program to support joint force effects to advance Australia’s security and prosperity,” said Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, chief of the Royal Australian Air Force.

“Working with our defense scientists here in Australia and our partners in the U.S. Air Force and across the U.S. Department of Defense … we are maximizing our learning during development to better define the capabilities and needs as the system matures,” he added.

While Pentagon officials have made no bones about the fact that developing and fielding hypersonics is a top priority to keep pace with China, Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update only went so far as to say that the government’s plans to acquire advanced strike capabilities would “potentially” include hypersonic weapons.

However, the technology is also a high priority for Canberra, even though the language in the document was “somewhat vague,” said Malcolm Davis, a senior defense analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a prominent think tank.

“The way Australia does policy, I think maybe it’s a little bit more cautious in its public pronouncements than the U.S. is,” he said. “But when you look beneath the surface and you speak to people in defense, it’s a very different picture. They are very focused on this. They are very clear in where they’re going.

“The very fact that we’ve now signed this agreement with the United States a mere few months after the release of the defense strategic update should tell you that we are very committed to developing hypersonic weapons,” he added.

Concerns about China are motivating Canberra’s push for new long-range strike capabilities.

Although the defense strategic update doesn’t explicitly name China as a threat, “everyone understands that’s what the document is about,” Davis said.

The Pentagon has a number of other hypersonics projects underway such as the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, also known as ARRW or “Arrow,” which would utilize rockets to boost the systems into their glide phase.

However, SCIFiRE’s pursuit of air-breathing propulsion technology could offer an advantage by enabling hypersonic missiles to be carried by a broader array of tactical aircraft than the rocket-propelled systems.

“Scramjet technology in cruise missiles allows us to make hypersonic weapons that are cheaper and smaller — small enough to be able to go onto our fighter inventory,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper told reporters during a Defense Writers Group event. “As we look to [aircraft] programs like F-15EX that can carry quite a lot of weapons externally, having something that can be a hypersonic strike platform closer in creates another conundrum for an adversary.”

Davis said the systems could be carried by Australia’s F/A-18F Super Hornets, and perhaps by robotic wingmen that are being designed to accompany fighter jets into battle.

Boeing Australia has already built an Airpower Teaming System drone, and the U.S. Air Force has its own robotic wingman program known as Skyborg.

Jim Faist, the Pentagon’s director of defense research and engineering for advanced capabilities, noted that digital engineering tools will be used to explore options.

“We’re trying to build digital twins of these systems,” he said in an interview. “The hope is that through digital twins, we can accelerate the transition onto many different types of platforms. … It’s part of the design work on SCIFiRE. We’ll be looking at that ease of integration on disparate platforms that we have in the services.”

While the new cruise missiles will initially be deployed on aircraft, Davis envisions the technology evolving over time into sea-launched or ground-launched systems.

“It’s an air-launched hypersonic strike weapon for attacking ground targets or maritime targets, but it also blazes the trail for much more capable, longer-range weapons systems down the track,” Davis said.

Notably, both countries intend for the weapons to remain conventional and not be armed with nuclear warheads.

Pentagon officials see a number of benefits in partnering with Australia.

The U.S. treaty ally was previously a major contributor to a long-running joint research initiative known as the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation, or HIFiRE, program, which explored the fundamental science of the technology and its potential for next-generation aeronautical systems.

Building the new prototypes and putting them through their paces will require complex infrastructure such as wind tunnels for the development cycle as well as ranges that can accommodate full-scale flight tests, Faist noted.

Australia has “world-class” flight-testing capabilities, he added, including a facility in Woomera.

The Australians also bring a lot of know-how to the table, U.S. officials say.

“They really are excellent in the science and technology of hypersonics and … they have worked closely with us for a long time. And we like working with them,” said Robert Joseph, the U.S. Air Force’s chief scientist.

Additionally, the Asia-Pacific ally will bear an “equitable” portion of the costs of the SCIFiRE project, Faist said. “They do have tremendous investment in this program.”

Canberra’s force structure plan released in 2020 allotted $9.3 billion for high-speed long-range strike and missile defense, including hypersonic development, test and evaluation. The Pentagon is also investing billions of dollars in its hypersonics portfolio.

Faist declined to say how much funding the two sides are allocating for SCIFiRE specifically, but noted that it will be a “larger budget” R&D effort.

There is also an intention to pursue co-production of the systems, which could help drive down costs.

When might the new weapons be battle ready?

“I expect over the next few months as we share our technical data we’ll have a better sense of how quickly we’ll be able to get to fielding, but I’m not predicting long,” Roper told reporters in December.

“Scramjet [propulsion technology development] is moving faster than I expected,” Roper said. “I predicted it would take longer to get those hypersonic engines matured. And thanks to some stellar approaches to manufacturing, the acceleration period is compelling us to go ahead and start thinking through future programs of record.”

The ARRW program started in 2017, and production could kick off as early as 2021, he noted. “I think we can go just as fast on scramjet.”

Faist said flight testing will be completed by 2025, but officials hope to accelerate that timeline.

For Australia, “the aim is to get this sort of capability operational in this decade, because this is the decade of danger where we are going to face the greatest risks from China,” Davis said.

It’s possible that a new weapon could be ready in the next few years, he said.

“We’ve been doing this research now for some time in the university sector,” he noted. “We’ve got that deep background, that foundation of scientific research and development and understanding, and I think that should hopefully accelerate the process of them taking that from essentially a science experiment to an operational piece of capability much more quickly than if we were starting afresh now.”

Steps are being taken to help the technology make it across the so-called “Valley of Death” between R&D and large-scale production.

Faist said there is a commitment by both nations to transition to a program of record if the project is successful.

Although Faist’s office launched the Allied Prototyping Initiative, the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center and program executive officer for weapons are responsible for executing SCIFiRE. The same office will also be responsible for overseeing the follow-on effort once the prototyping and flight testing wrap up, Faist noted.

“That was the other part of the decision on where to do this program,” he said. “It made sense to really build up on the Air Force program management side the internal ability to manage and execute on SCIFiRE, so that then the same team can move out on the program of record.”

Faist said source selection for SCIFiRE had not been completed, but generally speaking the Pentagon would like to have multiple suppliers. A follow-on program of record would be re-competed, he noted.

The weapons will likely be purchased in large quantities on par with other tactical air-launched cruise missiles, Faist said.

“Typically you’re going to get a higher number of production buys on these because of affordability,” he said. “This is a big game-changer for a lot of providers to get into the hypersonic business area, whether as a prime or a supplier.”

The Growing Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Australia, US to develop hypersonic missiles to counter China

Australia’s defence minister says ‘game-changing’ project with US will help deter aggression against its interests.

Australia and the United States will jointly develop hypersonic cruise missiles, the Australian defence minister announced on Tuesday, pledging to invest in “advanced capabilities” that will give the country’s military “more options to deter aggression” against its interests.

Both China and Russia are developing similar missiles.

The weapons are capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound and the combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude makes them difficult to track and intercept.

Linda Reynolds, the Australian defence minister, called the bilateral project with the US a “game-changing capability”, but did not reveal the cost of developing the missiles or when they would be operational.

“Investing in capabilities that deter actions against Australia also benefits our region, our allies and our security partners,” she said.

“We remain committed to peace and stability in the region and an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

The United States’ Acting Under Secretary of Defense Michael Kratsios said the project, officially known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), builds on 15 years of collaboration between the US and Australian military.

“This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the US and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” he said in a statement.

 

Australia had set aside up to 9.3 billion Australian dollars ($6.8bn) this year for high-speed, long-range missile defence systems, including hypersonic research.

In July, Australia said it would boost defence spending by 40 percent over the next 10 years to acquire longer-range strike capabilities across air, sea and land as it broadens its military focus from the Pacific to the Indo-Pacific region.

 

Australia’s collaboration with the US on missile development, however, could inflame tensions with China.

The relationship between both countries has been tense after Australia discovered what it said were Chinese influence campaigns, and has deteriorated further this year after Canberra asked for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing has introduced a string of economic sanctions on Australian goods, and relations hit a new low on Monday after a senior Chinese official posted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a blood-covered knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

China has deployed, or is close to deploying, hypersonic systems armed with conventional warheads, according to defence analysts.

Russia deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles last year, while the Pentagon, which tested a similar hypersonic missile in 2017, has a goal of fielding hypersonic war-fighting capabilities in the early to mid-2020s.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said on Tuesday that Australia hopes to begin testing prototypes of the air-launched, long-range missiles within months.

The hypersonic missiles will be designed to be carried by the Australian air force’s existing fleet of aircraft including Growlers, Super Hornets, Joint Strike Fighters as well as unmanned aircraft including drones, the newspaper reported.