Australia has rejected China’s “outbursts” over its decision to develop nuclear-powered submarines and has outlined plans for more US military deployments.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra, in turn, accused the Australian government of “slipping further down the path of damaging Sino-Australian relations” and lacking independence from the United States.
Speaking after talks with the Biden administration in Washington, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said the nation was a “proud democracy in our region” and that “no amount of propaganda can rule out the facts.”
The Australian government also renewed its request to China to resume high-level talks, an offer that Foreign Minister Marise Payne said “mature players” would be willing to accept.
Dutton and Payne joined their American counterparts for the annual dialogue known as Ausmin, the first since Biden took office, but was overshadowed by the fallout from the announcement of a new security pact between Australia, the United States and the United States. United Kingdom.
The deal has caused Australia to break its $ 90 billion contract with France for diesel submarines and instead will see the US and UK share sensitive technology with Australia to enable it to develop its first nuclear-powered submarines.
The Chinese government said the “extremely irresponsible” deal would seriously undermine regional peace and stability, while the nationalist tabloid Global Times published an editorial warning Australia not to act provocatively or China “would certainly punish it without mercy.”
Dutton rejected Beijing’s reaction. “This is not the first time we have seen different outbursts from China in terms of Australia’s position,” he told reporters Australian time on Friday morning.
“We are a proud democracy in our region. We stand with our Indo-Pacific neighbors to ensure lasting peace and this collaboration makes it a safer region. That is the reality and no amount of propaganda can rule out the facts. “
A joint statement issued by Australia and the United States criticized “China’s expansive maritime demands in the South China Sea that have no legal basis” and a “crackdown on Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.”
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy later rejected “the unfounded accusations and erroneous comments against China.”
“This small move to pressure China will do nothing but a staged farce,” the spokesman said.
Dutton also defended the new submarine plan after French ministers complained they felt stabbed in the back by Australia.
“The clear advice given to us by the chief of the navy and the chief of the defense force has been that a conventional diesel submarine would not provide us with the capacity until the 2030s, the second half of the 2030s, the 2040s and further, and that we needed a nuclear powered submarine, ”Dutton said.
“We analyzed what options we had available. The French have a version that is not superior to that operated by the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Ultimately, the decision we have made is based on what is in the best interests of our national security and the prevailing security and peace in the Indo-Pacific.”
Dutton said the latest talks in Washington had “reinforced our shared commitment to ensuring an alliance that is adequate to meet the strategic challenges that lie ahead.”
He announced that Australia and the US would be “significantly enhancing our cooperation in force posture”, including “increased air cooperation through rotating deployments of all types of US military aircraft in Australia.” including bombers.
Dutton also indicated that he would like to see an increase in the number of US troops rotating through Darwin.
He said there would be more military exercises with the United States and more combined exercises with other partners in the region. It was also open to the base and storage of military supplies in Australia.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US and Australia would continue to explore “greater and more frequent engagement … with our air capabilities, more training opportunities for our ground forces and also increasing our logistics footprint in Australia. “.
But Austin played down suggestions that, in exchange for highly sensitive new underwater technology, the United States might want Australia to accept proposals it has previously rejected, such as intermediate-range missiles housed on Australian soil.
“We certainly didn’t go into this with a quid pro quo mindset, and we haven’t outlined any specific reciprocal requirements,” Austin said.
Payne said the Ausmin talks “discussed competition from China on a number of levels that forces us to respond and build resilience.”
“This does not mean that there are no constructive areas for engagement with China. Australia continues to seek dialogue with China without preconditions ”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the previous day’s defense cooperation pact “was not directed at any country; it is certainly not aimed at stopping anyone.”
Blinken said that the alliance between the United States and Australia was “unbreakable.”
“The world saw China’s aggressive response as Australia spearheaded calls for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and Beijing has seen in recent months that Australia will not back down and that threats of economic retaliation and pressure simply will not work,” Blinken said.
“I also want to reiterate what I said earlier: the United States will not leave Australia alone on the field or better yet, on the field, in the face of these pressure tactics.”
Blinken confirmed that climate change was also raised during the meeting. “Today we also discuss the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis by making significant progress in reducing emissions by the end of this decade,” said Blinken.
Payne said the two sides had discussed working together in a variety of areas, including “pushing for clean energy solutions that meet the world’s climate goals.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism