Singaporean: Indonesia wants Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-propelled submarines to be closely monitored by the United Nations watchdog, saying it is taking “a very serious interest” because its waters will be passed by such vessels.
Along with south-east Asian neighbor Malaysia, Indonesia has expressed consternation about Australia’s submarine ambitions since the AUKUS deal was unveiled last September.
Now, Jakarta has raised major concerns about the sharing of nuclear technology for military purposes in a working paper for this week’s UN nuclear non-proliferation review conference in New York, highlighting safety issues with the transportation and use of highly enriched uranium and the risk of it being fun to weapons programs.
Indonesia’s proposal for stricter regulations around the sharing of nuclear material to fuel submarines is being supported by Malaysia, according to Tri Tharyat, the director general for multilateral cooperation at Indonesia’s foreign ministry.
“As an archipelagic country, whether we like it or not, [Indonesia] will definitely be passed by nuclear-powered submarines and therefore we have a very serious interest in getting our proposals done,” he said.
“The bottom line is the use of nuclear energy for submarines should be closely monitored by IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. We hope through our working paper there will be attention and steps from the IAEA for an inspection, preventing proliferation from taking place.”
Indonesia’s submission to the conference was made in the same week that President Joko Widodo met with China leader Xi Jinping.
Beijing has made no secret of its opposition to Australia buying nuclear-powered submarines from the United States or United Kingdom under AUKUS, claiming it would be a dangerous precedent and a violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, known as the NPT.
While not mentioning Australia or AUKUS in its working paper, Indonesia also argued sharing of nuclear technology and materials for military purposes may be counter to the spirit and objective of the NPT. Without proper safeguards in place, such arrangements “could be exploited to provide a shield for diversion of that material to [a] nuclear weapons program,” it warned.