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A deeply concerning precedent has been set by the new security alliance between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, a University of Otago international affairs specialist says.
The AUKUS enhanced security partnership, announced yesterday by the leaders of the three countries, sets a precedent that endangered nuclear non-proliferation, Prof Robert Patman said.
The alliance was also likely to be viewed by some Indo-Pacific nations as an unwelcome intrusion by Western military powers, he said.
The nations were "all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region", Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the online trilateral partnership announcement with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
However, Prof Patman said the new defence pact was a challenge to nuclear non-proliferation.
"Australia, which is a non-nuclear power, is getting nuclear-powered submarines as part of an international arrangement.
"Just imagine the reaction if Iran chooses to do the same.
"This is a precedent; Iran could cite the Australian case.
"Many people who are interested in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will be deeply concerned about the implications of this."
Prof Patman said some countries would also fear the security deal could stir up Chinese militarism rather than calming a volatile situation in the region.
"This does look, to many people in the Indo-Pacific, as the empire striking back; a series of English-speaking countries coming together to assert their interests in the region.
"It could politically backfire."