May 18, 2022

China lashed out at the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia for agreeing to a defense technology pact that would assist Australia in developing a nuclear-powered submarine fleet. This collaboration experts believe is a response to Beijing’s rapidly rising military might.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, termed the arrangement “extremely irresponsible” and said the trio of nations “should abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical stability.”

“Otherwise, they will only end up shooting themselves in the foot,” he stated during a Thursday press conference.

Zhao emphasized Australia’s usage of nuclear energy for its forthcoming submarine fleet, casting doubt on the country’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

“The nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK, and Australia has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race, and undermined international non-proliferation efforts,” Zhao stated. He also accused the US and the UK of using double standards to their nuclear weapons policies.

The arrangement, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has nothing to do with acquiring nuclear weapons, and Australia has no plans to do so. Morrison, US President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made no reference to China during the announcement of the accord.

However, some view the security collaboration, dubbed “AUKUS,” as an attempt to rein in Beijing’s fast-rising military might. According to two US officials familiar with the subject, the deal includes a significant subtext aimed at China.

The West has grown increasingly concerned about China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, where Beijing has bolstered its military presence in disputed waters and heightened tensions with its neighbors.

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China is “embarking on one of the biggest military spends in history,” UK defense minister Ben Wallace told the BBC.

“It is growing its navy [and] air force at a huge rate. Obviously, it is engaged in some disputed areas. Our partners in those regions want to be able to stand their own ground,” Wallace remarked.

Since last year, Australia and China have been embroiled in an unpleasant trade spat, with the latter increasing tariffs and accusing Australia of market manipulation.