China opens ear on nuclear subs but remains critical
Chinese officials have attended a briefing on Australia's nuclear-powered submarines deal, but Beijing remains critical about the pact with the US and UK.
China has accused Australia and fellow AUKUS partners of going down a "path of error and danger" following the announcement of the up-to $368 billion deal for nuclear submarines.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Australia, the UK and US had disregarded the concerns of international communities in launching the deal.
Representatives from the Chinese embassy in Canberra attended a diplomatic briefing on Wednesday morning.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia would look to co-operate with China, following a recent thawing of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
"I always made clear that stabilisation still means acting in our national interest," she told ABC radio.
Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said China's concern on Australia acquiring nuclear submarines was hypocritical.
"China is, after all, undergoing the biggest peacetime military expansion since World War II, so it's a bit ironic for them to give us a lecture about a modest increase in our military power relative to this," he told ABC Radio.
But the deal has also received a frosty reception from ASEAN partners that have previously raised concerns about nuclear proliferation.
The Malaysian foreign ministry said it noted the announcement and while it appreciated the readiness of the three nations to engage with the government diplomatically, it stood by its position on AUKUS.
"Malaysia underscores the importance of promoting transparency ... and refraining from any provocation that could potentially trigger an arms race or affect peace and security in the region," it said in a statement.
Indonesia has also raised concerns about the acquisition of nuclear submarines, with its foreign ministry saying it had closely followed the announcement.
"Maintaining peace and stability in the region is the responsibility of all countries," it said in a statement.
However, Japan has backed the plan, with prime minister Fumio Kishida saying it would contribute to peace and stability in the region.
In a bid to reassure Pacific leaders, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Fiji on Wednesday for talks with Sitiveni Rabuka.
Australian diplomats have been working to dispel Chinese propaganda about the deal, with Beijing consistently attacking the three nations for engaging in a "Cold War mentality", sparking an arms race and threatening peace.
Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating hit out at Australia's diplomatic efforts in Asia in light of the AUKUS announcement.
"What's happened is that the military have overtaken the foreign policy - as a consequence, we're not using diplomacy," he told the National Press Club.
"You see Richard Marles out there, not Penny Wong."
Mr Keating accused the Albanese government of failing to employ an effective foreign policy and neglecting China.
"Running around the Pacific islands with a lei around your neck handing out money, which is what Penny does, is not foreign policy. It's a consular task," he said.
Australia's sovereignty was being "peeled away", Mr Keating said.