China says AUKUS is on a “dangerous path” with nuclear infrastructure deal

BEIJING — The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are taking “an even more wrong and dangerous path for their geopolitical interests”, China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday, responding to a deal under which Australia would buy nuclear-powered attack submarines from China. The US will modernize its fleet.

Spokesman Wang Wenbin said the agreement, given the acronym AUKUS for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, stems from “a typical Cold War mentality that will only fuel the arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and undermine regional stability.” and peace.”

“The recent joint statement by the US, UK and Australia shows that the three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical interests, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community,” Wang told reporters. daily briefing.

US President Joe Biden flew to San Diego to join Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they hailed an 18-month nuclear partnership that gives Australia access to nuclear-powered submarines that are stealthier and more capable. than conventionally powered ships as a counterweight to China’s military buildup.

Biden emphasized that the ships will not carry any kind of nuclear weapons. Albanese said he did not believe the deal would worsen his relationship with China, which he said had improved in recent months.

Wang reiterated China’s claims that AUKUS “poses a serious threat of nuclear proliferation and violates the object and purpose of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

“The three countries claim to uphold the highest standards of nuclear non-proliferation, which is pure deception,” Wang said, accusing the three of “coercing” the International Atomic Energy Agency into giving approval.

Also on Tuesday, Australia’s defense minister said AUKUS was needed to counter the largest conventional military build-up in the region since World War II. Australian officials said the deal would be worth up to $245 billion over the next three decades and create 20,000 jobs.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said a massive diplomatic effort, including more than 60 calls to regional and world leaders, had been made for months before the deal was announced on Monday. He said Australia had even offered to keep China in the loop.

“We offered a briefing. I did not participate in the briefing with China,” said Marles.

Speaking to journalists during a video call late Monday evening, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Krittenbrink said the degree of transparency involved is one of the key features of the arrangement.

“AUKUS partners have made our intentions clear, including our commitment to regional peace and stability,” Krittenbrink said. “We are committed to the highest standards of security and non-proliferation and look forward to working with our friends, colleagues and partners. allies in the region,” he said.

AUKUS is one of several US-led security arrangements that have drawn fire from Beijing, which regularly opposes regional alliances from which it is excluded as remnants of the Cold War.

Along with Russia, China has condemned the Quad, a grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States whose foreign ministers made clear earlier this month that they aim to be an alternative to China. The ministers said they were concerned about “challenges to maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas”, referring to China’s aggressive moves to assert its territorial claims in a bid to replace the US as the regional hegemony. military force.

China has also been uneasy about an agreement between Washington and the Philippines that allows US forces greater access to Philippine bases in the so-called “first island chain” that is central to Chinese control of the region.

US military and political support for Taiwan has also drawn more threatening responses from Beijing in recent years.

A visit to the island by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2022 prompted Beijing to fire missiles at the island, send ships and warplanes to the area, and conduct exercises in a simulated blockade of the island. Amid tensions over the US downing of an alleged Chinese spy balloon in February, China refused to take a phone call from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the matter.

In recent days, President Xi Jinping’s officials have been spouting dire statements about US-China relations and China’s security in general.

Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington last week of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the US does not change course to mend relations over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, security, technology and Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

A day earlier, Xi told delegates to China’s legislature that “Western countries, led by the United States, have carried out comprehensive containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented serious challenges to our country’s development.”

During the closing day of the legislature on Monday, Xi said it was necessary to modernize the armed forces and “build the people’s army into a great steel wall” that protects China’s interests and national security. Xi also reiterated China’s determination to bring Taiwan under its control, either peacefully or militarily, amid growing concern abroad over a possible attack on the island, which Beijing considers its own territory.

China should “resolutely oppose the interference of foreign powers and the separatist activities of Taiwan independence, and steadily promote the reunification process of the motherland,” Xi said.

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