‘Will Aggravate Arms Race’:China Attacks New Australia-UK-US Partnership

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian | File Photo

Beijing: China Thursday sharply criticised the US, the UK and Australia's trilateral military partnership under which Canberra will be assisted to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, saying it will closely monitor the pact that will gravely undermine regional stability and aggravate the arms race and hurt international non-proliferation efforts.

The remarks of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian came after the US, the UK and Australia announced a new trilateral security alliance for the Indo-Pacific to take on the threats of the 21st century and allow for greater sharing of defence capabilities, including help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

Under the historic pact -- seen as an effort to counter China's growing power and military presence in the strategically vital region -- Australia will be assisted to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using American technology.

The pact, to be known as AUKUS, will also cover artificial intelligence, cyber and quantum technologies.

Mr Lijian, when asked for his reaction to the trilateral defence pact, said: "The US, the UK and Australia are engaging in a cooperation in nuclear-powered submarines that gravely undermines regional peace and stability, aggravate arms race and hurts the international non-proliferation efforts".

"The US and UK are about to export highly-sensitive nuclear-powered submarine technology to Australia. This once again shows that they are using nuclear exports for geopolitical gaming tools and applying double standards which is extremely irresponsible," he said.

"Australia is a non-nuclear weapons state, party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and a party to the nuclear weapon-free zone in the southern pacific. Now it is importing nuclear-powered submarine technology which is of strategic military value," Mr Lijian told a media briefing here.

The international community, including the neighbouring countries, have raised questions on its commitment to nuclear non-perforation, he said.

"China will closely monitor the situation. China always believes that any regional mechanism must go with the trend of the times for peace and development and should be conducive to mutual trust and cooperation between the regional countries. They should not target any third party or harm the third party's interests.

"To form an exclusive and closed clique or small group goes against the trend of the times and the aspiration of regional countries," Mr Lijian said, adding that such grouping has no future.

The relevant countries should abandon the obsolete Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concept, respect regional people's aspirations and do more things conducive to regional peace, stability and development. Otherwise, they will end up hurting their own interests, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman added.

Unveiling the ambitious security initiative, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a joint statement said their move will promote stability in the Indo-Pacific and support of their shared values and interests.

Interestingly, the announcement of AUKUS has come a week before a meeting of Quad leaders to be hosted by US President Biden in Washington on September 24. The meeting will also be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Australia Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Under the AUKUS alliance, the three nations have agreed to enhance the development of joint capabilities and technology sharing, foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains.

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