China accuses new U.S.-Australian submarine deal of stoking arms race, threatening regional peace

China accuses new U.S.-Australian submarine deal of stoking arms race, threatening regional peace

China on Thursday slammed a decision by the United States and Britain to share sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia, a move seen as a direct challenge to Beijing and its growing military ambitions.

Following President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday of a new defense alliance, to be known as AUKUS, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described the agreement as “extremely irresponsible” while Chinese state media warned Australia that it was now an “adversary” of China’s and should “prepare for the worst.”

At a regular press briefing in Beijing, Zhao said the alliance “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, aggravates the arms race and hurts international nonproliferation efforts.”

He accused the United States and Britain of following “double standards” and using nuclear exports as a “tool in their geopolitical games,” as he admonished them to “abandon their outdated Cold War mentality” — a common refrain from ministry spokespeople.

“Otherwise, they will only shoot themselves in the foot,” he added.

While President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China in their remarks on Wednesday, the move is widely seen as a response to China’s expanding economic power, military reach and diplomatic influence. China is believed to have six nuclear attack submarines, with plans to increase the fleet in the next decade.

On Thursday, Chinese commentators and state media criticized the move as another example of U.S. attempts to contain China. The often stridently nationalistic state-run Global Times described the United States was “hysterically polarizing” its alliance system and “losing its mind trying to rally its allies against China.”

“Possessing nuclear-powered submarines will become a universal temptation. The world needs to prepare for the arrival of a ‘nuclear-powered submarine fever,’” the editorial said.

The Global Times editorial described Australia as a “running dog” of the United States that had turned itself into an adversary of Beijing’s. “Since Australia has become an anti-China spearhead, the country should prepare for the worst,” it warned.

Under the Biden administration, Washington and Beijing have continued to clash over human rights, trade and potential flash points for conflict including the South China Sea and Taiwan.

As the United States attempts to engage China on climate pledges ahead of a key international summit in November, there have been few signs of progress. A 90-minute call between Chinese president Xi Jinping and President Biden last week resulted in few specifics, including a potential meeting between the two.

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