China has warned Australia their ongoing commitment to the AUKUS partnership is “clearly a threat” to regional peace and security, and undermines any improvement to the two countries’ bilateral relationship.
Beijing issued the warning through an editorial for the state-run newspaper the Global Times, writing that AUKUS was a tool of Washington designed to “stir up trouble” and provoke China.
It follows the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in more than six years wtih Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali last week.
Mr Albanese said the two did not talk about the AUKUS agreement, but the Global Times piece wrote Australia should not underestimate how concerned China was by the ongoing deal.
“It may have gone unmentioned due to a tight schedule or simply to facilitate a friendlier atmosphere for the talks between the two leaders. Yet, the Australian PM cannot and should not take it as signs that China is not concerned about the pact or even signs of a concession over the arrangement,” the CCP mouthpiece wrote.
China has consistently voiced its strong opposition to AUKUS, as has French President Emmanuel Macron, given former prime minister Scott Morrison scrapped the $90b submarine deal with Paris in favour of partnering with the United States and United Kingdom to develop nuclear capability.
Mr Macron last week accused Mr Morrison of provoking “nuclear confrontation” with China by entering into the deal.
He said Mr Morrison had also undermined Australia’s security and sovereignty and hoped Australia would reinstate its non-nuclear deal with France.
Mr Albanese has maintained there will be no change to the submarine program.
Beijing echoed Mr Macron’s words, saying AUKUS was a threat to Australia’s interests.
“China’s attitude is clear: It is not against establishing security pacts or military co-operation between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, as long as they don’t target a third country in an attempt to undermine its interests,” the Global Times wrote.
“AUKUS is clearly a threat to regional peace and security, as well as a barrier to improving China-Australia ties.
“If China chooses to ignore Beijing’s concerns over AUKUS, the pact will remain a thorn in the side of China-Australia relations. It is also likely to undermine a clear pathway to the healthy development of bilateral ties.”
Last week, Defence Minister Richard Marles said nuclear powered submarines would provide “an unmatched strategic advantage in terms of surveillance and protection”, and would “greatly enhance our sovereignty”.