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China says AUKUS pact risks nuclear proliferation in Pacific

Australian and American flags sit on the table during a meeting between Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on September 22, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (File photo by AFP)

The Chinese foreign minister has once again denounced the AUKUS military pact, saying the three-way agreement is a violation of a South Pacific treaty banning nuclear weapons in the region.

During a visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi seized on a recent announcement by the AUKUS nations that they were considering cooperating with Japan on military technology, telling reporters at a news conference in Port Moresby that Western countries were sowing the seeds of discord in the South Pacific and increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region.

The Chinese foreign minister said he had in-depth and friendly talks with his PNG counterpart, citing a broad consensus reached on bilateral ties between the two.

In 2022, the US announced a security pact with the UK and Australia to help the South Pacific country in its military activities, including the development and deployment of nuclear-powered submarines to the South Pacific region under the AUKUS agreement.

The three partners had devised plans to develop advanced warfighting capabilities such as artificial intelligence, undersea drones, and hypersonic missiles.

The top Chinese diplomat and senior politician, who has been serving as Director of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Foreign Affairs Commission Office, insisted that the AUKUS pact violated a South Pacific treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in the region.

"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 foreign minister said.

Wang took a thinly veiled swipe at Australian and US relations with Solomon Islands, which held elections on Wednesday, saying, “We believe that the people of Solomon Islands have the wisdom and ability to determine the future of their country. Island nations belong to their people. They are not the backyard of any big country.”

Wang also reiterated the significant nuclear proliferation risks in the Pacific region that were associated with the AUKUS military pact.

The US has been making significant efforts to increase its sphere of influence to include the South Pacific. In this regard, in recent years, Papua New Guinea has been one of the targets of the US foreign affairs apparatus with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, even succeeding in signing a cooperation agreement with Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape.

Some news outlets have cited reports of US inference in the elections, warning of schemes to riot to block Solomon Islands ex-prime minister Manasseh Sogavare from returning to power.

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