China has reacted with anger to the announcement of the new security alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, which will equip the latter country with nuclear submarines. At the daily press conference of the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, spokesman Zhao Lijian assured that the initiative will only serve to encourage an “arms race” in Asia Pacific and “will harm regional peace and stability.”
The agreement, known as AUKUS, will include Australia in the exclusive club of countries with nuclear-powered submarines, a type that allows much longer trips without the need to surface. So far, only six other nations have such ships: the US, China, Russia, the UK, India and France. Australia will be the only member that does not have its own nuclear program, be it military or civilian.
Although in the announcement of the pact none of the signatory leaders mentioned China by name, the initiative was born to counteract the growing military power of Beijing and serve as a deterrent against possible attacks against Taiwan and Japan, and its assertiveness in the South Sea of China and the Asia Pacific region. The US president, Joe Biden, mentioned in the presentation of the association the need to maintain a Indo-Pacific region “free and open”, and to face the “current strategic environment”.
The initiative has fallen like a bomb in Beijing. The agreement had not come to light in the telephone conversation that Biden had had 48 hours earlier with Chinese President Xi Jinping, held to try to redirect what is an increasingly deteriorating relationship between the two great powers, and to prevent them from a disagreement could degenerate into conflict. The announcement of the pact also comes before a summit of the informal defense association known as Quad-India is held in Washington next week. Australia, Japan and the United States – which Beijing sees as an attempt to curb its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
At his press conference, spokesman Zhao – the most emblematic of the “warrior wolves”, the new breed of the most aggressive and nationalist Chinese diplomacy in his public statements – did not spare words of condemnation. In his view, the agreement between the three countries “greatly undermines regional stability and peace, exacerbates the arms race and undermines international efforts against proliferation,” he said.
Zhao also accused the three allies of “using nuclear exports as a geopolitical tool. It is something extremely irresponsible ”. AUKUS partners “should abandon their cold war mentality and work harder for peace and stability, or they will end up harming themselves.”
The spokesman came to question Canberra’s commitment against nuclear proliferation after the agreement, which will provide it with at least eight nuclear submarines and which has implied the termination of the contract with the French company Naval for the acquisition of a dozen powered submarines. by diesel fuel. “If Australia, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the South Pacific Treaty as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, imports this type of nuclear submarine technology, its neighbors and the entire international community will have reason to question its sincerity to the time to fulfill those pacts ”, he pointed out.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has offered to speak with Xi about the new pact, but the Chinese foreign spokesman said he was unaware of that gesture. Instead, he accused Canberra, with whom Beijing already had a difficult relationship since that government asked China for explanations last year about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, of being the only culprit of the deterioration in bilateral ties. “Australia has to think about whether it wants to see China as a partner or a threat,” he said.
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