China has hit out at Australia and its allies after a proposal to expand its security pact with the UK and US was revealed.
The AUKUS agreement, which was introduced under the Morrison government and led to the construction of nuclear-powered submarines on Australian soil, has long been a pact maligned by China's foreign ministry.
Pressed on the possibility of Quad members Japan and India joining AUKUS, as proposed by the British defence select committee, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning delivered a stern message to Canberra and its allies.
"Despite being called a “trilateral security partnership”, AUKUS is essentially about fuelling military confrontation through military collaboration. It is apparently driven by Cold-War thinking," she told reporters on Wednesday.
"It creates additional nuclear proliferation risks, exacerbates arms race in the Asia-Pacific and hurts regional peace and stability. China is deeply concerned and firmly opposed to it.
"We urge the US, the UK and Australia to abandon their Cold-War and zero-sum mindset, honour their international obligations, and act in the interest of regional peace and stability."
Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who has been praised by Beijing for her role in improving ties between the two countries, said in a speech on Thursday that AUKUS was "essential for deterring conflict" in the region, The Australian reported.
“Our region is home to the largest military build-up anywhere in the world … with limited transparency and reassurance,” she said.
The Ukraine war has led to greater scrutiny of China's military intentions, particularly surrounding its goal of reunifying Taiwan with the mainland.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Japan this week that conflict "happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow".
Mao reiterated the long-held stance of the ministry that the West is "hyping up 'China threats'".
"The Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for geopolitical contests and does not welcome the Cold-War mentality and bloc confrontation."
Canberra has largely avoided the wrath of China's foreign ministry since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took office with Sino-Australian relations firmly on the mend. There is also suggestion Beijing is walking away from its aggressive diplomacy following the removal of Zhao Lijian as foreign ministry spokesperson.
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