Written evidence submitted by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament



  1. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) campaigns to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and to create genuine security for future generations.
  2. This submission will highlight the AUKUS agreement - how it risks nuclear proliferation; is a breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); and constitutes a dangerous escalation in the West’s ongoing confrontation with China. Spreading nuclear technology is at the heart of the deal: the US and UK are collaborating with Australia to provide them with nuclear-powered submarines.
  3. The submission will also highlight some points on Britain’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific; and the carrier strike group deployment.



  1. AUKUS undermines the rules of international law, due to the fact that spreading nuclear technology is at the heart of the deal. Currently only six countries, all nuclear weapon states, have nuclear-powered submarines. Australia will become the seventh and the first non-nuclear weapons state to acquire nuclear reactors to power submarines. This risks nuclear proliferation and is a breach of the NPT. The Prime Minister has argued that the AUKUS agreement does not contravene the NPT because the shared technology is for nuclear power, not nuclear weapons. The NPT does not stop the exchange of civil nuclear technology but it stipulates it must be ‘for peaceful purposes’. However, the exchange is not peaceful. The pact enables the transference of weapons-grade enriched uranium to power war-fighting submarines undertaking provocative actions in potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific region.
  2. The AUKUS pact brings nuclear technology into an increasingly militarised part of the world, where accidents or further provocations could flare up into full-scale war. Not surprisingly, China has strongly criticised the pact; Indonesia and Malaysia have raised concerns the deal could lead to a regional arms race; and Pacific nations, already ravaged by nuclear testing, say the whole region has been put at risk. New Zealand will ban Australian submarines from its waters. Reaffirming the country’s nuclear-free policy, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, said ‘New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged.’ AUKUS could potentially negatively affect Britain’s relationship with these countries, who believe the agreement is destabilising the region, making it more dangerous and risking war. AUKUS has also alienated European allies like France.
  3. The devastating impact of historical British nuclear testing on islands in the Indo-Pacific region in 1950s is still felt today and should have been taken into consideration before agreeing the AUKUS deal. Testing in locations including the Kiribati (Christmas), Malden and Marshall Islands, then under British and US colonial control in the 1950s, caused environmental devastation, and long-term impacts of the exposure to radiation, such as increased rates of cancer. In the mid-1980s, states in the South Pacific declared the region a nuclear weapon-free zone, known as the Rarotonga Treaty. The AUKUS pact may well breach this Treaty.
  4. AUKUS will likely drive nuclear proliferation, as other countries now seek nuclear-powered submarines. South Korean Presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has already said he would seek US support to build nuclear-powered submarines should he win, directly referencing AUKUS.


Relationship with Indo-Pacific

  1. The 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy outlines the British government’s strategic ‘tilt’ to focus on the Indo-Pacific – building a network of allies with India, Australia and others against China. It broke with the 2015 Strategic Review which promoted closer relationships across the Asia Pacific. This tilt is contributing to a US-led arms race in the region, which makes the likelihood of war and nuclear weapons being used more, not less, likely.
  2. It is not in the UK’s political, economic, diplomatic or operational interests to destabilise the Indo-Pacific region. Instead, Britain should be working cooperatively with all countries in that region to tackle the shared challenges we face today as an international community, such as climate change. It could work collaboratively with Indo-Pacific states, investing in joint projects, such as the first green shipping corridor between Los Angeles and Shanghai.
  3. The UK’s current bases contribute to global insecurity and military conflict in the region. More UK bases in the Indo-Pacific would drive an arms race in the region, exacerbate tensions and make military conflict more, not less, likely.


Carrier Strike Group deployment

  1. The carrier strike group deployment has been a destabilising factor in the region and its scale of deployment has been seen as provocative and dangerous. Sending the carrier into the disputed waters of the South China Sea, bearing US fighter jets, can only make conflict with China more likely, and can even escalate the likelihood of accidents leading to war with another nuclear-armed state. Rather than pursuing further militarisation of the region, thee government should seek to build positive relationships in the region based on sustainable economic development, including educational and cultural exchange, and meeting humanity’s problems in a constructive shared framework
  2. The deployment served to highlight the government’s excessively militarised priorities: spending vast sums on sending a warship halfway round the world while there are many more urgent financial priorities at home, such as ensuring a fully funded health system.
  3. The government needs to end its narrow understanding of ‘Global Britain’ which seems to focus almost entirely on military expansion. Instead it must explore new ways of collaborating with all in the global community to meet the enormous mutual challenges we face.


4th March 2022