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China says AUKUS risks nuclear proliferation in Pacific

By AFP

April 20, 2024 04:20 PM


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China's foreign minister on Saturday accused Western partners in the AUKUS security pact of provoking division and raising the risk of nuclear proliferation in the South Pacific region.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at the defence agreement, which provides for the United States and Britain to equip Australia with nuclear-powered but conventionally armed submarines.

On a visit to Papua New Guinea to firm up ties with the long-time Australian ally, Wang warned that the three-way AUKUS agreement "runs counter" to a South Pacific treaty banning nuclear weapons in the region.

AUKUS also "raises serious nuclear proliferation risks", he told a news conference after meeting with his Papua New Guinea counterpart Justin Tkatchenko.

In recent years, Beijing has tried to chip away at US and Australian influence across the South Pacific, including in Papua New Guinea.

The Pacific islands, while small in population, are replete with natural resources and sit at a geostrategic crossroads that could prove strategically vital in any military dispute over Taiwan.

Australia is by far Papua New Guinea's largest donor, but Chinese firms have made solid inroads into markets in the impoverished but resource-rich nation.

The Chinese foreign minister seized on a recent announcement by the AUKUS nations that they are considering cooperating with Japan on military technology.

Under the AUKUS agreement, the partners plan to develop advanced warfighting capabilities such as artificial intelligence, undersea drones and hypersonic missiles.

"The recent attempts to draw more countries to join in such an initiative of stoking confrontation between blocs and provoking division are totally inconsistent with the urgent needs of the island countries," the Chinese foreign minister said.


AFP


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