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Vatican Secretary of State voices concern over nuclear subs

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John Burger - published on 09/25/21 - updated on 09/25/21

Going nuclear is "not the way to maintain peace and security," Cardinal Parolin says.

Citing the potential for “rearmament,” the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, voiced his concern over an announced military deal among the United States, Great Britain and Australia.

“The Holy See is against rearmament and all the efforts that have been made and are being made are in the sense of the elimination of nuclear weapons because they are not the way to maintain peace and security in the world, they create even more dangers for peace and even more conflict,” Cardinal Parolin said this week.

Speaking to a group of reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of the European’s People’s Party (EPP) in Rome, the cardinal said that within a vision of nuclear disarmament “that has always characterized the Holy See, one cannot but be concerned.” 

But AUKUS, the deal in which the US and UK are assisting Australia in the face of threats from China, does not involve nuclear weapons — only nuclear-powered submarines.

“As a key project under AUKUS, we are launching consultations with Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines for its navy — conventionally armed,” President Joe Biden said in a joint news conference September 15 with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison. “I want to be exceedingly clear about this: We’re not talking about nuclear-armed submarines. These are conventionally armed submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors. This technology is proven. It’s safe. And the United States and the UK have been operating nuclear-powered submarines for decades.”

“Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability. And we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations,” Morrison said at the same news conference. 

“Only a handful of countries possess nuclear-powered submarines, and it is a momentous decision for any nation to acquire this formidable capability and, perhaps, equally momentous, for any other state to come to its aid,” Johnson added. “But Australia is one of our oldest friends, a kindred nation and a fellow democracy, and a natural partner in this enterprise.”

Among various voices in support of the AUKUS partnership and the plans for Australian nuclear subs, the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, cited growing tensions between Beijing and a number of its neighbors, including Vietnam, India, and the Philippines, as well as crackdowns in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet. 

“In each case, China does what it wants and what it thinks it can get away with,” Patten wrote at Project Syndicate. “And it regards any attempt by others to stand up to the bullies in Beijing as tantamount to launching a new Cold War.”

He added that Australia has been “disgracefully” treated by China ever since it pressed for a full and open inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“That call came after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hoodwinked the Australians in January 2020 about the Wuhan health emergency – just when China was buying large quantities of medical equipment from Australia and other countries,” Patten wrote.

“Australia’s geographic location and heavy reliance on exports to China potentially make it particularly vulnerable to Chinese bullying,” said Patten, who is now chancellor of the University of Oxford. “It makes good sense for these three liberal democracies and old friends to work together to help Australia stand up to this.”

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