China has strongly criticized a new defense and security pact between the UK, US and Australia named as the AUKUS agreement. Chinese state media has warned Australia will become a "potential target for a nuclear strike" after it acquires nuclear-powered submarines.
The trilateral security partnership, named AUKUS, was announced on Thursday by the three nations' leaders via video link. This agreement is intended to help deliver stability in the Indo-Pacific region which has come under increasing Chinese influence.
It will also include an 18-month plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. The development has also angered France which was expecting to supply the defense equipment.
China Says Australia Can Be a Potential Target for Nuclear Strikes
China's state-run Global Times newspaper said the move could result in a nuclear strike on Australia. The article cited an anonymous 'senior Chinese military expert' who said Australia would pose a nuclear threat to other countries because the new submarines could potentially be fitted with nuclear weapons provided by the US or UK.
"This would make Australia a potential target for a nuclear strike, because nuclear-armed states like China and Russia are directly facing the threat from Australia's nuclear submarines which serve US strategic demands," the expert said.
The unnamed official said nations such as China and Russia would not treat Canberra as "an innocent non-nuclear power" but as "a US ally which could be armed with nuclear weapons [at] any time"
"Biden and Morrison's promises of 'not seeking nuclear weapons' are meaningless," the expert said. He claimed that AUKUS is putting Australia in danger, and Morrison's ambition could bring destructive consequences to his country if a nuclear war breaks out.
China Says the Pact is "Extremely Irresponsible"
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the AUKUS deal supplying Australia with nuclear submarines "seriously damages regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and undermines the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons."
He slammed the grouping as a reflection of "outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception" that "intensified" a regional arms race and harmed international non-proliferation efforts.
Can AUKUS Hinder the Australia-China Relations?
The first major initiative of AUKUS, Morrison said, would be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia. "Over the next 18 months, we will work together to seek to determine the best way forward to achieve this. This will include an intense examination of what we need to do to exercise our nuclear stewardship responsibilities here in Australia," he said.
According to media reports, the nuclear-powered submarines will give Australia naval heft in the Pacific, where China has been particularly aggressive.
Morrison on Thursday also extended an "open invitation" for talks with Xi Jinping, after announcing the AUKUS pact. Chinese experts said such a hilarious and shameless act by Morrison can bring no positive response from China, and they have no expectations to fix China-Australia ties during the Morrison administration, according to the Global Times.
China has been one of Australia's biggest trading partners, but the relationship has soured over the last few years. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated issues and tensions between the countries, especially after Australia called for an international, independent inquiry into the origins of the disease.
While none of the three western leaders involved mentioned China, the AUKUS arrangement is deal is widely understood to challenge Beijing's increasingly aggressive territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific and aggression towards Taiwan.