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China labels US comments on Taiwan and AUKUS ‘dangerous’

CHINA’S government labelled as “dangerous” comments by a senior U.S. diplomat that the AUKUS submarine project between Australia, Britain and the United States could help deter any Chinese move against Taiwan.

The project, finalised by the three countries last year, involves Australia acquiring nuclear-powered attack submarines as part of the allies’ efforts to push back against China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Speaking last week, the U.S. State Department’s No. 2 diplomat, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, said the new submarine capabilities would enhance peace and stability, including in the strait that separates China and Taiwan.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, despite the objections of the government in Taipei, and is regularly angered by what it views as foreign inference in a domestic issue.

“His remarks are very dangerous,” Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters in Beijing when asked about what Campbell had said.

The Asia Group Chairman and CEO Kurt M. Campbell attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

“The establishment of the so-called trilateral security partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia is essentially to provoke military confrontation in the region through military cooperation in small circles,” she added.

Any attempt to use military cooperation to “intervene in the Taiwan issue is to interfere in China’s internal affairs” and is a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region, Zhu said.

The U.S., Britain and Australia formed AUKUS in 2021, as part of their efforts to push back against China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific region. China has called the AUKUS pact dangerous and warned it could spur a regional arms race.

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None of the AUKUS countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

While the U.S. has long been Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier, both Britain and Australia have stepped up support for the island and expressed concern at Chinese military pressure against it.

Speaking to Reuters while on a trip to Taipei as part of an Australian lawmaker delegation, Dave Sharma, a senator from the opposition Liberal Party, said AUKUS has “certainly been of interest to our Taiwanese counterparts”.

Both AUKUS and the Quad – the group of the U.S., Australia, India and Japan – exert a stabilising presence in the region allowing cooperation, information sharing and joint exercises, Sharma said, following meetings with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen as well as defence and security officials.

“I think Taiwanese counterparts see this as reassuring because it sends a message to Beijing that these countries have a joint interest in maintenance of security across the Taiwan Strait,” he added.