Defence Minister Peter Dutton's choice words in response to remarks from China's acting ambassador to Australia have triggered a furious response from Beijing, with the Chinese government branding him "absurd and irresponsible".
On Friday Mr Dutton labelled Wang Xining's interview with Guardian Australia where he criticised the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal "so silly, it's funny".
In yet another escalating war-of-words, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was teed up by Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times on Mr Dutton's remarks during his department's daily press briefing. He did not hold back.
"Mr Dutton's remarks are extremely absurd and irresponsible," he began in a scathing tirade.
"As a senior official of the Australian government, he is obsessed with the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudices.
"Driven by selfish political gains, he has repeatedly made provocations, sensational and astonishing statements on China-related issues.
"He wouldn't scruple to hijack Australia onto the chariot in confrontation with China. His real intention has been exposed to all."
Mr Dutton is no stranger to foreign ministry press briefings and has faced the wrath of Mr Zhao and his fellow spokespeople in recent months.
He has repeatedly riled Beijing for hyping up the threat of war in the region and all but declaring Australia would be ready for involvement.
In the wake of remarks made in September, Mr Zhao said Mr Dutton's commentary was "extremely dangerous".
Beijing warns Morrison government about becoming 'laughing stock'
On Monday, Mr Zhao warned Australian politicians ongoing critical comments about China would not be tolerated.
"For a while, some Australian politicians have been hyping up "China threat", wantonly criticising and attacking China, provoking tension and inciting confrontation and making all sorts of trouble," he said.
Despite China's continued military aggression in the South China Sea and intimidation of Taiwan, he claimed the AUKUS agreement and Australia's position on Taiwan were acts that "run counter to the trend for peace".
"If [these politicians] attempt to pocket selfish political gains by singing the anti-China tune, they will end up shooting themselves in the foot and becoming a laughing stock in the world," Mr Zhao warned.
Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who has previously called on the Morrison government to change its tack in China dealings, is set to tell the National Security College today that Mr Dutton is "amping up" the possibility of war for domestic political gain.
"Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history," her speech to be delivered on Tuesday reads, the ABC reports.
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