China blasts US security pact with Britain and Australia

Beijing labels the alliance 'extremely irresponsible', but President Biden says it is to 'ensure peace'

WASHINGTON/CANBERRA: China yesterday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the US, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.

Under the arrangement, dubbed Aukus, the US and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

The US and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China's growing power and influence, particularly its military build-up, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement, and senior Biden administration officials said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian slammed the three countries for their "Cold War mentality".

"The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology by the United States and Britain to Australia once again proves that they use nuclear exports as a tool of their geopolitical games and their double standards. This is extremely irresponsible," he said yesterday.

He said China believes that any regional mechanism should "help enhance mutual trust and cooperation".

"It should not target any third party or undermine its interests," he said.

The three leaders stressed that Australia would not be fielding nuclear weapons but using nuclear propulsion for the vessels to guard against threats.

"We all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term," Mr Biden said.

"We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead," he said.

The partnership ends Australia's US$40 billion (S$54 billion) 2016 submarine deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group. France accused Mr Biden of stabbing it in the back and acting like predecessor Donald Trump .

"This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

"I am angry and bitter. This isn't done between allies." - REUTERS