Living with AUKUS in the nuclear-free Pacific

THESE ISLANDS By Robert Underwood

The recent Australia United Kingdom United States (AUKUS)

agreement on nuclear submarines has much of the world scratching their heads. It was a poorly executed decision to end a deal between Australia and France over the purchase of diesel submarines. Australia is now buying American instead and nuclear to boot.

There may not be long-term circumstances from the awkwardly worded and imperfectly implemented AUKUS agreement. People can forgive and forget if they find ways to compensate for a failed deal and recognize French sensibilities. France has already re-recalled their ambassadors from Australia and the United States. Discussions about centuries-old alliances will be used to paper over real differences.

It is unclear what this means for the island Pacific if anything. We can just wait for the next extra-regional move and then figure out how to react in predictable and safe ways. It goes without saying that no one in the island Pacific was consulted or given advance notice.

The Federated States of Micronesia expressed support, but it was obvious they had no advance notice. It was a rude reminder about your place in strategic planning even when it is ostensibly occurring in your own backyard.

Most Pacific island governments have been relatively quiet. Expressing outrage about climate change and the precarious nature of island existence seems much easier and less thorny than getting between China and the United States.

The Samoa Observer criticized Australia for becoming a party to a pact that could see conflict return to our “peaceful islands” 76 years after the end of WWII. It was an interesting comment from a publication located in a country that saw no hostilities during that conflict.

The Solomon Islands or the Marshall Islands, which experienced a nuclear testing holocaust on their atolls, have more standing to venture a strong opinion. But they haven’t.