China's Foreign Ministry has accused Australia of breaching global rules on the spread of nuclear weapons, following the announcement Monday of details of nuclear-powered submarines under the trilateral AUKUS security accord among Australia, the United States and Britain.
China has accused this AUKUS alliance of embarking on a “path of error and danger.”
Monday, the leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia announced a deal on nuclear-powered attack submarines that will also see U.S. and British nuclear-powered submarines rotating into Australian waters as soon as 2027.
The multi-billion-dollar trilateral accord will provide Australia with at least three U.S.-made submarines armed with conventional weapons. The allies will also work together to create a new fleet of subs using cutting-edge technology.
At a regular media briefing in Beijing Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the AUKUS partners had “for the sake of their own geopolitical interests” completely disregarded “the concerns of the international communities.”
China has previously accused Washington, London and Canberra of a “Cold War mentality.”
Senior Australian government ministers telephoned their counterparts in more than 60 nations in the days leading up to Monday’s AUKUS announcement to allay concerns about nuclear proliferation. China, however, has, so far, refused to be briefed.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Wednesday that her government wanted to be more transparent than the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who signed the AUKUS accord in September 2021.
“We wanted to stabilize the relationship with China, and we want to reengage more deeply with our region,” Wong said. “We have sought to do both of those things including in the way we dealt with this (AUKUS) announcement where we have engaged very closely with our region in the lead up to this and made sure that they were not blindsided in the way they were under the Morrison government.”
She added that, “I said we wanted to cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must, and we would engage in our national interests.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia’s twin ambitions of greater military cooperation with the United States and closer economic ties with China, its biggest trading partner, was not a “contradictory position.”
Canberra’s diplomatic ties with Beijing have been strained in recent years over various political and trade disputes, but Albanese’s center-left government has made improving the relationship a priority.
The Australian prime minister met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 international summit in Indonesia in November.
Albanese visits Fiji Wednesday to hold talks on security, climate change and the regional economy with his counterpart, Sitiveni Rabuka.