China said today that the plan to acquire and develop nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS security pact "will only fuel an arms race" and "harm regional peace and stability". "The AUKUS nuclear submarine programme is a waste of Cold War mentality and will only serve to fuel an arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation system and damage regional peace and stability," Chinese foreign spokesman Wang Wenbin told a press conference today.
On the side-lines, China's UN mission criticised that "the irony of AUKUS is that two nuclear countries that claim to uphold the highest nuclear standards are transferring tons of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear weapons country, clearly in violation of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons)".
The leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia on Monday unveiled their plan to acquire and develop nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS security pact, seen as a counterweight to China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. Under the agreement, Australia will buy up to three Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines from the US during the 2030s and will have the option to acquire two more if necessary, bringing the total to five.
Although the signatories have not explicitly mentioned China, the pact is seen as an alliance to counter Beijing's influence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, the scene of tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan, which the Chinese government considers a rogue territory.
The new submarines will allow Australia to join the club of nations with nuclear-powered submersibles, which includes the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, India and the United Kingdom, from the next decade.
Last year, China's then Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticised the creation of the AUKUS alliance, saying it was "against the spirit of peace for the countries in the region". "The real goal of the US strategy in the Pacific is to establish a version of NATO. This is a region that wants development and cooperation, not a chessboard. China rejects any attempt to create circles of influence," he said.
The decision to supply Australia with atomic submarines under the AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) alliance raises questions from the point of view of nuclear non-proliferation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today. "Many questions arise in connection with the problem of non-proliferation," he said at his daily press briefing. Peskov said that "in this case it is necessary to show special transparency and it is necessary to answer the questions that arise".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said today that the AUKUS bloc lays the groundwork for a protracted confrontation in Asia. "With the creation of blocs such as AUKUS and the advance of NATO structures towards Asia, the Anglo-Saxon world is declaring that it is seriously preparing for a confrontation that will last for many years," he said.