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China has issued a stern warning to Australia in the wake of meetings with key British defence officials as the nations look to solidify the AUKUS security pact.
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the World Economic Forum on Friday where he hailed the alliance with the UK and US – a pact which is largely perceived to be a counter measure to China's growing dominance in the Indo Pacific.
"We live in what is an increasingly fragmented and contested world, particularly here in the Indo Pacific which has become the world's strategic centre of gravity. The challenges we face are many," Mr Morrison said.
"There are tensions over territorial claims, there is rapid military modernisation. There is foreign interference occurring in nations right across the Indo-Pacific and here in Australia. There is malicious cyber threats and attacks that are taking place. Disinformation, economic coercion."
Mr Morrison said the AUKUS agreement, which involves developing nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, would help fight coercion in the region and enable all nations to flourish.
But when pressed about meetings between the UK and Australia, China's outspoken foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian took aim at the pact, accusing the alliance of double standards over its non-proliferation commitments.
"As we have repeatedly stressed, AUKUS is a typical military bloc," he said.
"It is even more untenable for the UK and Australia to hype up the “China threat” narrative in this context.
"We firmly reject it. Relevant sides should immediately stop the erroneous acts of stoking division and inciting confrontation."
Xi Jinpin warns of 'catastrophic consequences'
Earlier at the World Economic Forum, China's president Xi Jinping warned of “catastrophic consequences” in an appeal to world leaders to scrap a “cold war mentality”.
China's relationship with Australia remains badly strained after a torrid two years where Beijing has voiced mutliple grievances with a defiant Canberra.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton has spoken consistently on the potential threat of war in the region, particularly in relation to China's push to reunify Taiwan, a move which has triggered an angry reaction from Beijing.
Mr Zhao previously called Mr Dutton "delusional" over his remarks.
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