Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton has deemed comments by both the Chinese regime’s media mouthpiece The Global Times and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian as “propaganda,” after they claimed the new AUKUS security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom would undermine peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Frankly, I think they make the case for us,” Dutton told Sky News on Sept. 17 from the United States. “Their comments are counterproductive and immature, and frankly embarrassing.”
Under the new AUKUS agreement, the United States will share top-secret nuclear propulsion technology with Australia and the UK for a fleet of at least eight submarines, expected to be in the water by 2040.
The new security pact comes amid increased tension in the Indo-Pacific region, as like-minded liberal democracies move to counter Beijing’s increased aggression and expansionist policies.
It also follows a year of Beijing targeting Australia with trade restrictions, deemed economic coercion by the United States, in retaliation for Australia calling for an international inquiry into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
In criticising the pact, Zhao described the AUKUS agreement as a “closed and exclusive clique” and said the decision intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation agreements.
He said Beijing would be keeping a close eye on developments.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said AUKUS would not come at the expense of working alongside China in the Indo-Pacific.
He rejected Beijing’s claims that the pact undermined stability in the Indo-Pacific.
“Everything we’ve done with the United States is consistent with the partnerships and relationships and alliances we’ve already had with the United States,” Morrison told 3AW on Sept. 17.
The prime minister would not be drawn on China’s claims the submarines would make Australia a nuclear target.
Morrison said the Indo-Pacific region had become tenser, but Australia wanted to boost peace and stability.
“We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be,” he said.
The decision to scrap a $90 billion deal with French company Naval Group, originally for 12 conventionally (diesel-electric) powered submarines, has also angered the government in Paris.
Dutton made no apology for the nuclear switch.
AAP contributed to this report.