China says Aukus submarines deal embarks on ‘path of error and danger’ | Aukus

China has accused the US, UK and Australia of embarking on a “path of error and danger” in response to the Aukus partners’ announcement of a deal on nuclear-powered submarines.

“The latest joint statement from the US, UK and Australia demonstrates that the three countries, for the sake of their own geopolitical interests, completely disregard the concerns of the international communities and are walking further and further down the path of error and danger,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

The multibillion-dollar deal, announced during a meeting of Aukus leaders in San Diego on Monday, will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines in an effort to counter the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific.

Aukus announce development of nuclear powered submarine ‘SSN Aukus’ – video

The spokesperson’s comments came after the Chinese mission to the UN tweeted a statement accusing the three countries of fuelling an arms race. It said the deal was a “textbook case of double standard”.

The US president, Joe Biden, rejected the accusation, saying the submarines would be “nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed”. Penny Wong, Australia’s foreign minister, said the Chinese criticism was “not grounded in fact”.

Biden said he expected to speak with Xi Jinping – who recently secured a third term as China’s president – soon but declined to elaborate.

On Tuesday Wang said China did not want to “communicate for the sake of communicating” but that “the US side should come forward sincerely, with practical actions to promote China-US relations”.

Relations between China and the US are at their lowest in decades. Various channels of communication, including military dialogues, have been paused since Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan in August, angering China.

China’s Wang Wenbin pictured in May 2022Pin
Wang Wenbin said the US ‘should come forward sincerely, with practical actions to promote China-US relations’. Photograph: Liu Zheng/AP

In February the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated into US airspace. China said it was a meteorological monitoring device that had blown off course, but the US rejected that claim and cancelled a long-awaited trip by Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, to Beijing.

The US and its allies are increasingly worried about the prospect of China launching a conflict with Taiwan, which would be catastrophic for the self-governing island’s 23 million people and would spill over into the rest of the region. Observers are watching closely for signs that China’s military is preparing for such an attack. On Monday Xi closed China’s annual parliamentary session with a speech in which he promised to build China’s armed forces into a “great wall of steel”.

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it “welcomes the continued advancement of the Aukus partnership”, noting that Taiwan is “at the forefront of the fight against authoritarian expansion”.

Biden has promised to respond militarily if China invades Taiwan, but of the allies Australia would be the first to feel the impact of a conflict in the Indo-Pacific. Anthony Albanese, Australia’s prime minister, said the Aukus deal, which is forecast to cost $268bn (£220bn) to $368bn, was the “biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in all of its history”. Analysts quoted in Chinese state media said it was an “expensive mistake”.

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