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Diplomatic blitz to calm allies over nuclear subs fears

Australia's top ministers are working to allay concerns over Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines as China continues a disinformation campaign.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia had an impeccable record when it comes to non-proliferation.

"We will observe to the highest standard, our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty, under the Treaty of Rarotonga," Senator Wong said.

"We will ensure that we have ... the highest standards when it comes to the safety of the construction of this capability."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday announced the government would buy at least three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines, before taking ownership of a new generation AUKUS class.

Australia will have a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines by the mid-2050s.

But Beijing has accused Australia, the US and the UK of undermining the international nuclear non-proliferation regime via the AUKUS alliance through which Canberra will acquire the new capability.

China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday in the pursuit of selfish geopolitical interests, Australia, the UK and the US had disregarded concerns of the international community and gone further down a dangerous road.

Spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the comments at a regular news briefing when asked about the AUKUS submarine deal.

Beijing also accused the three nations of fuelling an arms race and threatening peace in the Indo-Pacific, despite Chinese military also operating nuclear-powered submarines.

Australia has rubbished the claims, saying nuclear energy used for propulsion is in line with the non-proliferation regime which provides for the use of non-military nuclear technology.

The Australian government has given an ironclad commitment it will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, will not carry any nuclear weapons and will not need to be refuelled during the lifetime of the submarines.

The nuclear reactor received by Australia will be welded shut to prevent access to the material to satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Negotiations are continuing over an agency-led oversight regime.

Mr Albanese, Senator Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles made more than 60 calls to allies, ASEAN nations and Five Eyes partners in recent weeks to allay concerns before the public announcement.

Media reports suggest Mr Albanese will meet Fijian leader Sitiveni Rabuka on his way back from the US.

The foreign affairs department has engaged with Pacific island nations 200 times since the AUKUS pact was first announced in September 2021.

"The effort that we have put in in relation to providing transparency here to our neighbours and to our friends has been welcomed," Mr Marles said.

"We feel like we're in the best position we can be in in terms of the acceptance of our neighbours and the world of the decision that we are making."

With Reuters.