China on Thursday condemned a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such submarine partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.
France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.
The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea, according to a REUTERS report.
U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”
Johnson said the pact was not meant to be adversarial and said it would reduce the costs of Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.
The partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder, Naval Group, to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters.
France accused Biden of stabbing it in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump.
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” Le Drian told franceinfo radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
EU foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell said the new partnership, on which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive European foreign policy.
“We must survive on our own, as others do,” Borrell said as he presented a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.”
Among the U.S. firms that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
General Dynamics’ Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc.