The United States and the United Kingdom are coming under increasing international fire over a new security deal they struck with Australia.
The US and UK will provide Australia the capability to develop nuclear-powered submarines as part of the pact, which is regarded as a response to China.
France, meanwhile, felt “stabbed in the back” by the decision, while China accused the three nations of having a “Cold War mindset.”
The deal has also sparked concerns that it would push China into a conflict.
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and his Australian colleague Scott Morrison launched the Aukus partnership.
Aukus is largely seen as a move to challenge Beijing’s influence in the disputed South China Sea, despite the fact that they did not mention China.
Later, Mr Johnson told MPs that the deal was “not designed to be antagonistic” to China.
However, his predecessor, Theresa May, questioned the prime minister about the deal’s potential to draw Britain into a conflict with China.
She enquired of the prime minister about the partnership’s “implications” in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
“The United Kingdom remains committed to protect international law,” Mr Johnson said, “and that is the strong counsel we would offer to our allies throughout the globe, as well as the strong advice we would give to the Chinese government.”
Taiwan, which is democratic, sees itself as a sovereign state, but Beijing has stepped up pressure on the island, which it regards as a renegade province.
A Tense Moment For Western Allies
Meanwhile, Washington has tried to assuage Paris’s displeasure with the treaty, which has scuttled a multibillion-dollar submarine contract between France and Australia.
The declaration was dubbed a “stab in the back” by France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian.
He compared it to former President Donald Trump’s “brutal, unilateral, and unexpected choice.”
In response, French ambassadors in Washington canceled a banquet to commemorate US-French cooperation.
Gérard Araud, France’s former ambassador to the United States, told news outlets, “It’s a really terrible time.” “The US was well aware that this deal and this strategic contract were critical to French national interests, but it didn’t care.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described France as a “essential ally” with whom Washington will continue to work “very closely.”
Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, dismissed the French accusations.
“There are certain collaborations that involve the French and some ones that don’t,” she explained. “They also have agreements with other nations that don’t include us.” “That’s how international diplomacy works.”
A Massive Shift In Defense Policy
The agreement, which would see the allies exchange cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, and other underwater technology, was hailed by the UK’s national security advisor Stephen Lovegrove as demonstrating “deep strategic changes.”
As a result, Australia will be the world’s sixth country to operate nuclear-powered submarines.
Mr Lovegrove described the agreement as “perhaps the most important capabilities partnership anywhere in the globe in the last six decades.”
Who Else Has Nuclear Subs?
Meanwhile, China has accused the allies of harboring a “Cold War mindset” that would be detrimental to their own interests.
The Chinese state-run Global Times warned of a nuclear submarine weapons race, predicting that Australian soldiers would be the “first to die” if China launched a “counterattack.”
However, Australia’s defense minister, Peter Dutton, dismissed Beijing’s response.
“We haven’t seen various eruptions from China in terms of Australia’s stance for the first time,” he added.
“In our territory, we are a proud democracy. We stand with our Indo-Pacific neighbors to maintain long-term peace, and this cooperation makes the area safer. That is the truth, and no amount of misinformation can change that.”