AUKUS: the Ultimate Option?Photo: Getty Images.

1/ On security front:
  • An article in the South China Morning Post argues that the new AUKUS statement did not relieve regional concerns about the possibility of an arms race or the possibility of Australia violating the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in the future. After the submarines are decommissioned, their uranium can still be extracted for nuclear weapon production. 
  • Another claims that AUKUS set a dangerous precedent: countries can take advantage of paragraph 14 of the INFCIRC/153 document of the IAEA (which allows nuclear fuel for naval use to be exempt from inspections and monitoring by the UN nuclear watchdog) to develop weapons or to transfer technology for non-nuclear countries. AUKUS has ended the five decades of reducing highly enriched uranium (HEU) for humanity. 
  • Many scholars argue that AUKUS increases the risk of Australia being dragged into the China-US conflict. Australia’s submarine officers will spend a lot of time training on the US’s submarines, while these submarines are also at risk of being attacked. 
  • In regards to the effectiveness of deterrence, Victor Abramowicz (former Australian defense official) believes that Australia can send submarines near China with AUKUS but it is not certain that the submarines can deal with China’s anti-submarine system. Zack Cooper (AEI) believes that Australia will have to purchase two different types of submarines (AUKUS-SSN and Virginia), increasing the endeavor’s cost and complexity.
2/ On political front
  • According to Victor Abramowicz, AUKUS will make Australia dependent on the US in the long term instead of achieving its desired strategic autonomy, and that Australia has the mentality of a "colony" afraid of being abandoned. Su Lin Tan’s article on SCMP argues that AUKUS reflects the idea of Australia choosing sides instead of great power balancing. 
  • Timur Fomenko (RT) argues that AUKUS embodies the “neo-imperialist sentiment of Anglophone exceptionalism”.
  • Zack Cooper (AEI) claims that domestic political barriers have made AUKUS approach more complicated than necessary and less practical. For example, Australia has the ability to purchase more Virginia-class submarines, yet this number is limited due to its promise to further boost its national submarine construction industry in South Australia. 
3/ On economic front
  • Abramowicz thinks that Australia has many alternatives that are less costly. To protect its coast, Australia only needs non-nuclear submarines. The offer of France to Australia was initially cheaper and less time-consuming. 
  • Zack Cooper argues that Australia can only operate a certain amount of submarines at a given time (less than 12), thus with the two different types of submarines, in terms of financial and human resources, Australia will face higher costs. Moreover, AUKUS will also make the US Navy lose 1/10 of its current Virginia submarine fleet (to transfer to Australia). Meanwhile, this is the US Navy’s advantage over China. The amount that Australia paid the US for the submarines is insufficient for the US to rebuild these submarines (1 for 1). 
  • In addition, many comments also raised other concerns about mobile reactors, nuclear waste treatment, pollution, etc. 
These concerns are not entirely new, but not without basis. Some comments are based on the interests of AUKUS members themselves, possibly to push them to make plans and commitments more clearly. Many opinions contain similarities to those of  some Southeast Asian or Pacific Island countries. AUKUS could be more well embraced if there are better messaging and more visible efforts to address regional skepticism.

Find out more at:
The post is originally published here
Translated by Nguyen Tien Dat
Revised by HD, Viet Ha