China Daily (Hong Kong)

Diplomats worry about Australia’s nuclear plan

- By ZHANG YUNBI zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn

During their latest meetings, diplomats from China and some Southeast Asian countries have raised worries and concerns over the surging nuclear proliferat­ion risk prompted by Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear submarines from the United States and the United Kingdom.

In particular, the recently announced trilateral partnershi­p named AUKUS and their teamwork on nuclear submarines is “a key component” of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, said Liu Jinsong, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asian Affairs.

Liu made the comment during his recent one-on-one workinglev­el meetings with Beijing-based ambassador­s of the Philippine­s, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia from Sept 17 to Thursday.

Many of the 10 members of the Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations voiced their complaints and anger in fear of a potential arms race in the region.

In his recent respective meetings with the five ASEAN member countries’ envoys in Beijing, Liu said the fresh AUKUS partnershi­p is also “a prelude to the Quad summit”.

The Quad groups the US, Japan, India and Australia.

The AUKUS partnershi­p shows some countries’ obsession in forming “race-based, geopolitic­s-oriented cliques” as well as their persistenc­e in forming military alliances and adopting double standards on issues including nuclear non-proliferat­ion, Liu said.

This kind of hypocrisy and betrayal not only impacts the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-WeaponFree Zone, but also stirs up an arms race in the region and creates tension and rifts, Liu added.

Also, the AUKUS means future steps of identifyin­g a potential enemy will increase risks of conflicts in the region, Liu said, adding that ASEAN countries will not accept Australia’s lobbying about teaming up against China.

Speaking to Liu, envoys of the ASEAN countries involved said they were shocked upon becoming aware of the AUKUS partnershi­p, and they reiterated their countries’ discontent and worries over AUKUS and the submarine plan.

They said the moves will stoke an arms race and add uncertaint­y to the region’s situation, and the countries concerned should respect and maintain the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-WeaponFree Zone and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperatio­n in Southeast Asia.

Earlier this month, Wang Qun, Chinese envoy to the United Nations in Vienna, warned that it is “utterly irresponsi­ble” for Australia, as a non-nuclear state and state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferat­ion of Nuclear Weapon and South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, to import nuclear submarine technology with strategic military value.

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