China's staggering threat over nuclear sub move: 'Punish with no mercy'

The fallout with China over the landmark AUKUS defence pact announcement on Thursday continues, with Chinese state media warning Canberra the lives of Australian soldiers will be lost if Australia continues on its current trajectory.

In a scathing editorial published by the nationalistic Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times, Australia has been told if it continues to provoke China as the US's "running dog", Beijing will not hesitate in making an example out of Australian troops.

"Australia has turned itself into an adversary of China," it said, adding the move to add nuclear-powered submarines with the aid of the US has only escalated the situation.

"If it acts with bravado to show its allegiance to the US and takes the most prominent position in the US' anti-China strategy, especially by being militarily assertive, then Canberra will most likely become a target of Beijing's countermeasures so as to send a warning to others," it said.

FM spokesperson Zhao Lijian delivered a characteristically robust response to the nuclear-powered submarine development. Source: FMPRC
FM spokesperson Zhao Lijian delivered a characteristically robust response to the nuclear-powered submarine development. Source: FMPRC

"Thus, Australian troops are also most likely to be the first batch of Western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea.

"If Australia dares to provoke China more blatantly because of that, or even find fault militarily, China will certainly punish it with no mercy."

The provocative tabloid warned Australia's military will become the targets of Chinese missiles if the navy's presence in the South China Sea continues stressing Canberra should "prepare for the worst".

There was reference to Australia's recent narrative around a growing threat and increase chance of conflict in the region, a move by Australia that has infuriated Beijing and only heightened last week by Defence Minister Peter Dutton who reiterated such comments.

The Global Times controversial editor-in-chief Hu Xijin belittled Australia in one of his regular video addresses, suggesting a country of Australia's stature should not own nuclear-powered submarines.

"I would like to advise [Australia] not to think that once it acquires nuclear submarines and ballistic missiles that it's qualified to intimidate China," he said.

China's official response to landmark move

All eyes were on Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Thursday evening as he stepped up for his department's daily press briefing.

His response was somewhat more controlled than the Global Times, however labelled the submarine announcements as "extremely irresponsible".

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He said the announcement from the three countries "seriously undermined regional peace and stability" and if they did not abandon a Cold War mentality, "they will only end up shooting themselves in the foot".

An unnamed senior Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Thursday they believed it will now be "easy" for Australia to acquire nuclear weapons as a next step.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison categorically denied that was Australia's intentions but was dismissed by the Chinese military expert as "meaningless".

He said it would therefore make Australia a nuclear strike target.

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