The AUKUS trilateral security pact will be on the agenda for discussions between the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week.

Henry Puna, who flew into Samoa on Thursday last week for talks with Samoa’s Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa and her Government will be in the Australian capital Canberra this week where he intends to discuss the security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

He said there have been concerns amongst the PIF membership on the broader implications of the trilateral security pact on the region which he is keen to raise with the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“Some of our leaders have expressed concern that this might lead to the nuclearisation of the Pacific Ocean, you can bet your bottom dollar that with the increased presence of these nuclear assets in the ocean, that China will respond appropriately and accordingly,” Puna said. “So our concern is where there’s a high number of nuclear assets, there’s always a possibility of a leak, and that will be in direct conflict with the Rarotonga Treaty that declares our area as a nuclear-free zone.

“So there is that concern, so I guess what is really required is an open round table discussion, not only with Australia but the AUKUS parties. We need assurance that this will not happen”.

Puna, a former Cook Islands prime minister for a decade before he was appointed the PIF Secretary-General in 2021, flew to Australia from Samoa on Friday night.

The AUKUS trilateral security pact was jointly announced by the Australian, the UK and the U.S governments in March this year. Under the pact, Australia will acquire conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines, which they said: “will provide an assured undersea capability that contributes to stability, peace, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.