China has fired off a frightening warning to Australia over its nuclear submarines deal with the US and the UK, declaring it may trigger an unpredictable global arms race.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday that once a Pandora’s box is opened, the “regional strategic balance will be disrupted and regional security will be seriously threatened”.
The United States, Australia and UK this month unveiled details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
“China firmly opposes the establishment of the so-called ‘trilateral security partnership’ between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia,” said Tan Kefei, a spokesman at the Chinese defence ministry, during a regular press briefing.
“This small circle dominated by Cold War mentality is useless and extremely harmful.”
Mr Tan added such co-operation was an extension of the nuclear deterrence policy of individual countries, a game tool for building an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO” and seriously affected peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region
It’s not the first threat made by China.
On the eve of the AUKUS announcement, Chinese President Xi Jinpin described the deal as an “expensive mistake” and suggested that Beijing would continue to grow its military to counter the perceived threat.
AUKUS ‘instrumental’ in maintaining peace
The details of the deal were announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese alongside UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden in a lavish ceremony in San Diego earlier this month.
Here are the basics:
The federal government will buy at least three American-manufactured nuclear submarines and contribute “significant additional resources” to US shipyards.
There will also be an option to purchase another two under the landmark AUKUS deal and design and development work will continue on a brand new submarine, known as the SSN-AUKUS, “leveraging” work the British have already been doing to replace their Astute-class submarines.
Mr Sunak said AUKUS would “keep our oceans free” with a new generation of nuclear-powered attack submarines.
“For the first time ever, it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across both the Atlantic and Pacific, keeping our oceans free, open, and prosperous for decades to come,” Mr Sunak boasted at the time.
Economic pain hurts
At a time of great economic pain for Aussies the signing of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal appeared to trigger some serious angst.
In fact, many reacted with downright fury.
A talkback caller on ABC radio in Melbourne a few days later told host Rafael Epstein the deal was a “heartbreakingly disgusting” amount of money to spend on defence when everyday Australians were struggling.
“I have a teenager who is having a mental health crisis,” the woman from Glen Waverley said while holding back tears.
“I’ve been told it’s a 10-month wait to get him to see a psychologist. It’s even longer to get him to see a psychiatrist,” she said.
“They’re not doing anything to help a teenager who is self-harming but they spend money on submarines.”
Richard Dunley, a naval and diplomatic historian, said the deal “looks best from Washington – they get major wins in terms of basing, maintenance support and recapitalisation in their yards”.
He noted the Australian perspective was “less clear”.
“The cost is astronomical,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Huge but still unknown amounts will be paid to the US in subsidies and then to buy the Virginias. This capability will only realise materialise mid-next decade, and is only a stopgap.”
Read related topics:China