Trump triggers talk of Australia going nuclear

Trump triggers talk of Australia going nuclear, by Peter Hartcher.

Should Australia develop its own nuclear weapons? It seems an outlandishly radical thought for such a safe country to consider. But a former adviser to Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop thinks it’s an idea whose time is fast approaching.

In his book Why Australia Slept, launched this week, Peter Hendy says that Australia needs to consider nuclear weapons because “if we could financially afford them, [they] would secure an even more independent foreign policy” for the country. …

Three former deputy secretaries of Australia’s Defence Department – strategists Hugh White, Paul Dibb and Richard Brabin-Smith – have mooted the idea in the past year. Till these most recent months, it’s been something of a taboo topic in respectable circles. …

To suggest that Australia now needs its own atomic arsenal is to suggest that there has been a fundamental breakdown in trust. In short, that the US alliance is dead. …

After Trump cancelled the Korean war exercises this year at Kim Jong Un’s request:

If US troops in South Korea were to stop the military exercises, it could cause allies to lose confidence in Washington and undermine the entire US military presence in Asia, he told America’s National Public Radio. For China, this is victory on every level. …

Trump has inflicted so much political damage to America’s European and Canadian alliances that “the community of North American and European nations forming the nucleus of the alliance that won the Cold War for the West is closer to breaking up now than at any time since the 1940s” in the assessment of Walter Russell Mead, an American scholar. … Trading partners will cheat America; allies will free ride on America’s military budget.

Australia has been unscathed so far; Wright says that this will likely change only if some disagreement emerges. Trump isn’t so systematic to work down a list of allies he must alienate, but he will “react to what’s in front of him. It’s possible to sneak on by.”

Mass nuclearization is possible:

If Trump’s North Korean gambit works, he will have a serious achievement. If it fails? Says Asher: “The irony of the North Korean denuclearisation deal could be that everybody else decides to go nuclear. If it fails and Kim remains in power and countries doubt our commitment, then what’s to stop Japan or South Korea or Australia going nuclear?”

It could lead to “mass nuclearisation — it’s a very bad position, 20 countries in the region with nukes, like 20 people in a room all pointing guns at each other”.