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AUKUS: China lashes out at US-UK-Australia security alignment

Under the partnership, announced by US President Joe Biden, British PM Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott, the US, and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to build nuclear-powered submarines.
The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Illinois returns home to Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam from a deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility on Monday. Australia decided to invest in US nuclear-powered submarines and dump its contract with France to build diesel-electric submarines because of a changed strategic environment, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. (AP)
Updated on Sep 16, 2021 06:40 PM IST
By Sutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

China on Thursday strongly criticised the new US-Britain-Australia (AUKUS) security partnership, saying it will “severely” damage regional security and spark an arms race.

Under the partnership, announced by US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday, the US, and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The new security arrangement is set to worsen China’s ties with western countries, especially with Australia.

Like with the US, Beijing-Canberra ties have been soured by more than one reason; the strains first appeared in 2018 when Australia became the first country to publicly ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network.

Beijing was furious in 2020 when Australia became one of the first countries to call for an independent investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, which started from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

On Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian lashed out at the trilateral security group.

Zhao Lijian said the trio was “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.

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Countries should not build partnerships that target third countries, he told a media briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

“This proves once again that these countries are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical games,” Zhao Lijian was quoted as saying by Chinese state media.

Zhao Lijian said the US and UK’s decision to export highly sensitive nuclear-powered submarine technology to Australia was a case of “extremely irresponsible” double standards.

Zhao Lijian added that the three countries should abandon the “…obsolete cold war zero sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concepts and respect regional people’s aspiration and do more that is conducive to regional peace and stability and development - otherwise they will only end up hurting their own interests”.

“China will closely watch the situation’s development,” Zhao Lijian said.

In Washington, asked to respond to the AUKUS announcement, the Chinese embassy spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, said countries “should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. In particular, they should shake off their cold war mentality and ideological prejudice”.

The Global Times said Australia had now “turned itself into an adversary of China”, in an editorial published on Thursday.

The editorial asked: “The US and its allies are messing up the world. They are even touching the bottom line of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Here comes an interesting question: Who is more capable of withstanding the global chaos? China or them?”

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