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China, France denounce AUKUS pact

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France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.

US 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”.

“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation… It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular briefing in Beijing.

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.

“Now that we have created AUKUS we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities,” Johnson told Parliament.

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 said.

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,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told franceinfo radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

– THE INDIAN EXPRESS

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