China sees ‘Cold War mentality’ in US, UK and Australia defence pact

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China on Wednesday said countries should “shake off their Cold War mentality” as it opposed the creation of a pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The security partnership will involve wide-ranging projects on cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and is expected to counter China’s influence in global politics.

Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC, said countries “should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties” and added that they “should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice”.

US president Joe Biden announced the AUKUS alliance through a joint virtual event with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and the UK’s Boris Johnson on Wednesday. The pact will be formally signed at the White House next week during the Quad summit.

China had last week criticised the Quad summit and said that “exclusive” regional cooperation cliques formed to target a third country “won’t be popular and has no future”. The first-ever in-person meeting of the Quad countries — US, Australia, India and Japan — is scheduled on 24 September.

The AUKUS alliance will also enable Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, in a bid to counter China’s growing aggression ranging from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. With this agreement, Australia would become the seventh country, after the US, Russia, Britain, China, France and India, to acquire nuclear submarines.

The Scott Morrison government abandoned a $90bn submarine deal with France and entered into this new deal with the US and UK to boost its underwater defence capabilities.

Mr Morrison said plans for the submarines would be developed over the next 18 months and the vessels would be built in Adelaide but Australia will not field nuclear weapons. “We will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations,” he said.

Mr Biden said this initiative is about making sure that “each of us has the most modern capabilities we need to manoeuvre and defend against rapidly evolving threats”.

“Today we’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalise cooperation among all three of our nations because we all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region over the long term,” Mr Biden added.

Mr Johnson said: “This partnership will become increasingly vital for defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific region and, by extension, protecting our people back at home.”

This alliance comes amid China’s counter provocation to the Biden administration after he sought to rebuild security policies for the Indio-Pacific region. Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr Biden has sought a more unified voice from regional allies against the Asian giant. Beijing has been flexing its muscles in the Indian Ocean since early January, prompting a response from the other big players in the region such as India.

According to a Pentagon report, China has “the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines, including over 130 major surface combatants”.

Mr Biden reportedly spoke with the Chinese president Xi Jinping over the phone last week after unfruitful high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers. During the 90-minute long call, Mr Xi expressed concerns that US policy towards China has caused “serious difficulties” in relations, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

Additional inputs from agencies

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