The Chinese embassy to the United States has told the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to “get rid of your cold war mentality and ideological biases” after the trio announced a new security pact on Thursday.
The trilateral security association, called Aukus, was announced by the leaders of the three nations via video link and will draw up an 18-month plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. It also sparked a strong political backlash domestically in Australia and the UK, and from France, whose existing $ 90 billion submarine contract with Australia has now come to an abrupt end.
While no leader mentioned China, it is understood that the agreement responds to Beijing’s expansionism and aggression in the South China Sea and towards Taiwan. US President Joe Biden spoke of the need to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and to address the “current strategic environment” of the region.
When asked for his response to Aukus’ announcement, Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said that countries “should not build exclusionary blocs that target or harm the interests of third parties. In particular, they should get rid of their cold war mentality and ideological prejudices. “
Most Chinese state media appeared not to report on the deal in the hours after it was unveiled.
China has been accelerating its military development and has become much more aggressive in the region, including almost daily forays into Taiwan’s air defense zone. There is a growing fear that the confrontation in the South China Sea or in the Taiwan Strait could escalate into a conflict.
On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison extended an “open invitation” to speak with Xi, saying he was ready to discuss the issues. Communications between the two governments have essentially been frozen amid a worsening of bilateral and trade relations.
France’s foreign minister criticized the deal, which heralds the end of a $ 90 billion deal Australia made with the French company Naval Group in 2016 to replace its aging fleet of Collins-class submarines. France accused Australia of “going against the letter and spirit” of the agreement.
“The US decision to remove a European ally and partner like France from a structural partnership with Australia at a time when we face unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … shows a lack of coherence that only France can acknowledge and regret, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a joint statement.
On Twitter, former French ambassador to the US Gérard Araud went further and said: “France has just remembered this bitter truth from the way the US and UK stabbed her in the back. in Australia. This is life.”
Araud also appeared to question why Australia was not looking for nuclear submarines in France. “A nuclear powered submarine would have been much easier for France to offer as all of its submarines are nuclear powered,” he tweeted. “The difficulty was precisely converting nuclear energy into conventionally powered ships.”
Morrison defended the now-defunct French deal, saying that the $ 2.4 billion spent by Australia was not a waste of money.
“All that investment, I believe, has further built our capacity and that is consistent with the decision that was made in 2016 for all the right reasons to protect Australia’s national security interests and has served that purpose,” he said.
The fleet will be built in Adelaide and will make Australia the seventh nation in the world to have submarines powered by nuclear reactors. Morrison pointed out that they would not carry nuclear weapons. Australia is a signatory to non-proliferation treaties.
New Zealand, which has banned nuclear-powered vessels in its sovereign waters for more than three decades, confirmed that there would be no exception for Australia and that submarines would be banned. Analysts noted that New Zealand’s absence from the deal was “conspicuous,” but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it “in no way changes” existing intelligence agreements with the three nations or the fifth member of the Five Eyes collective, Canada. .
Amid rising tensions, China has become increasingly isolated on the world stage. Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke on the phone last week for the first time since a post-inauguration call, and recent meetings with foreign officials ended in an impasse or anger.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK Commons foreign affairs committee, said the Aukus deal was clearly a response to China. “After years of commercial intimidation and hostility, and watching regional neighbors like the Philippines see their waters invaded, Australia had no other choice, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom,” he said. in a series of tweets.
“Tonight, Beijing will have realized that the pressure on Australia has prompted a response. This is a powerful response for those who thought that the United States was withdrawing and the propaganda that claimed that Washington was not a reliable ally. “
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating criticized the deal, saying it linked Australia to any US engagement against China. “This arrangement would witness a further and dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependence on the United States would deprive Australia of any freedom or choice in whatever compromise it deems appropriate,” he said.
Japan’s government, which aims to strengthen its defense capabilities against a possible invasion of its southern islands by an increasingly assertive China, has yet to comment on the new alliance.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia were “clearly joining with the opposition to China in mind,” adding that the Biden administration had already strengthened cooperation with allies in the Indo-Pacific through the Quad pact. involving Australia, Japan and India. and the United States.
Left-leaning Asahi also pointed to the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier’s recent mission to the region, where it conducted its first joint exercise with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces last month, as evidence that the UK is “strengthening its engagement in the Region. of the Indo-Pacific ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism