'Cold war mentality': China blasts Australia's submarine deal with US, UK

·3-min read

China's Washington embassy has responded to Australia's new pacts with the United States and Britain, saying the countries should "shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice".

The United States, Britain and Australia said on Wednesday they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will involve helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, as Chinese influence over the region grows.

Asked to comment, Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said countries "should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties". 

"In particular, they should shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice," he said.

China's ambassador to Australia was briefed about the AUKUS pact and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was an open invitation to the country's President Xi Jinping for a discussion.

China's Washington embassy has hit out at the pact between the three countries. Source: AAP
China's Washington embassy has hit out at the pact between the three countries. Source: AAP

PM praises 'forever partnership'

Mr Morrison hailed the new AUKUS pact as a "forever partnership" which would be the most important alliance since the 70-year-old ANZUS treaty.

Defence spending will be increased to fund the submarines and boost Australia's long-range strike capability including Hawk and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The nuclear submarines with unlimited range will not require reactors in Australia, with sealed modules for the vessels to be sent from the UK or US.

They do not require refuelling with the nuclear system lasting the life of the submarines, which are faster, have greater stealth and more carrying capacity than conventional boats.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden announced a new pact on Thursday. Source: AAP
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden announced a new pact on Thursday. Source: AAP

An 18-month consultation period will determine workforce and training requirements, production timelines and safeguards on nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

Construction is expected to start before the end of this decade.

Australia will become the first nation without nuclear weapons to acquire the submarines.

Mr Morrison said no civil nuclear capability would be needed in Australia.

"This is not about acquiring nuclear weapons," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

"Australia has no interest in that. No plans for it, no policy for it, no contemplation of it. It's not on our agenda."

Australia scraps French sub deal

Mr Morrison confirmed Australia spent $2.4 billion on the scrapped French submarine deal for 12 Attack-class submarines.

"Of course they're disappointed," he said.

He stressed the decision did not reflect on the Attack class, Naval Group or the French government.

"If we were unable to access this technology to have a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, then the Attack-class submarine is the best conventional submarine," he said.

But Defence Personnel Minister Andrew Gee said the French submarines would have been technologically obsolete by the time they came into service.

"Future generations would not have thanked us for passing them down to them," he said in a statement.

Mr Gee said Australia should not mourn the loss of the deal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia will not pursue nuclear weapons or a civil nuclear capability. Source: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia will not pursue nuclear weapons or a civil nuclear capability. Source: AAP

Greens MP slams 'floating Chernobyls'

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Labor would support nuclear-powered submarines if there was no domestic nuclear industry.

No nuclear weapons and being compatible with the non-proliferation treaty were his other sticking points.

"All of those conditions, I believe, can be met," Mr Albanese said.

Greens leader Adam Bandt believes the move increases the prospect of nuclear war in the region and puts Australia in the firing line.

"It's a dangerous decision that will make Australia less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities," he told the ABC on Thursday.

"It's a terrible decision. It's one of the worst security decisions in decades."

With AAP and Reuters

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