‘Bad guy’: top Chinese diplomat accuses Australia of ‘wielding a sword’ in nuclear submarine deal | China

A senior Chinese diplomat compared Australia to “a bad guy” over the Aukus nuclear submarine deal, saying it jeopardizes Australia’s reputation for peace and that the Australian people “should be more worried “.

Acting Chinese Ambassador to Australia Wang Xining said Australia would be labeled a “sword bearer” rather than a “peacekeeper” over plans to acquire at least eight submarines nuclear powered, which would also affect the nuclear non-proliferation system.

“There is no nuclear capability, technologically, in Australia, which would ensure that you will be problem free, you will be incident free,” Wang said. “What if something does happen, are the politicians ready to apologize to the people of Melbourne and Adelaide?”

He also called on Australian politicians to “refrain from doing anything that is destructive to our relations” after Defense Minister Peter Dutton signaled that Australia would be likely to participate if the United States United came to the aid of Taiwan in a conflict with China.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Wang gave no indication that Beijing was on the verge of ending the freeze on appeals between Chinese and Australian ministers, saying speculation about Australia’s involvement in a military conflict were “not a conducive environment” for high-level talks.

Amid mounting tensions in Australia’s relationship with its major trading partner, Wang said he would not be surprised if Canberra decided to cancel the long-term lease of a Chinese company from the port of Darwin, but asked: “I wonder if Australia can afford to break another contract?” “

Aukus an “Anglo-Saxon clique”

Australia canceled a French contract for 12 diesel-electric submarines in favor of a new security partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines – sparking a important diplomatic reaction from France.

The Morrison government said the move was prompted by the deteriorating security situation in the Indo-Pacific, Australian Ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos saying the most capable submarines will enable the Australia to “project our power higher” from its shores.

Wang said the Australian people should be concerned about the impact of Aukus on “the nation’s branding” given that Australia is portraying itself as a supporter of the international system.

“Trying to acquire a nuclear powered submarine certainly has an impact on the current non-proliferation system. So are you gonna be a bad guy? he asked, with a small laugh at the end.

Wang said people his age in China viewed Australia as a lover of peace, “but nowadays people know that a nuclear-powered submarine is designed to launch a long-range attack against a distant target “.

“So who are you going to attack?” You are no longer a lover of peace, a defender of peace, you become a sword bearer in some form, ”he said.

China is rapidly modernizing its own military force and already has the world’s largest navy with a combat force of around 355 ships and submarines, according to a Pentagon report released last month. China currently operates 12 nuclear-powered submarines and, like the United States, is a nuclear weapon state.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne sought to allay concerns from Malaysia and Indonesia over Aukus, visiting South East Asia earlier this month to say Australia was ” one of the strongest supporters of the global non-proliferation regime ”and that it would work with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Payne assured his Southeast Asian counterparts that Aukus “would make us a more capable partner, better able to contribute to the security and stability of our region”.

But Wang described the Aukus agreement between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom as an “Anglo-Saxon clique”, saying it “shows that some people in your country still have a mentality of concentric stratification of people according to their cultural and ethnic origin “. .

“Scare away” Chinese investors

Wang has been charge d’affaires – the most senior diplomat – at the Chinese embassy since early November, after former Ambassador Cheng Jingye returned to Beijing at the end of a five-year term.

Wang, who was already in Canberra as deputy head of mission at the embassy, ​​said he was saddened and disappointed at the deterioration of relations over the past five years.

Sitting for an interview at the Ambassador’s residence, Wang blamed “Australia’s negative policies and actions against China” which had been carried out in “a ruthless and arbitrary manner.”

He cited Chinese firm Huawei’s ban on the 5G network in 2018, the cancellation of the Victorian Belt and Road deal earlier this year, and increased barriers to foreign investment that had “scared” Chinese investors.

The Morrison government will soon consider the future of a Chinese company’s 99-year lease on Darwin harbor, which could worsen relations.

Wang said that under the existing contract, signed between Landbridge and the Government of the Northern Territory in 2015, the company plans to expand the capacity of the port.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the intelligence and security apparatus extended its hand, once again, to normal business operation,” he said.

He said the Chinese government will respond to any decision once announced, just as it has responded to “all negative moves” to date.

“But it seems to me that all of these answers have fallen on deaf ears, so no one in government seems to listen carefully to what my government has expressed, and even in some areas it seems that tensions persist.”

Australia has accused China of a campaign of “economic coercion” after Beijing imposed tariffs and other trade measures on a range of Australian export sectors over the past 18 months, including coal , barley, wine and seafood.

Wang continued to defend these measures on technical grounds, and said that there was “inadequate diplomacy that has been carried out by your government in terms of resolving these disputes.”

He said Chinese and Australian officials continued to talk to each other, but the ministerial talks would require a better “political atmosphere” and the prospect of “concrete results”.

Looking more optimistic about the way forward, Wang said China is “always very keen to engage in a very fruitful and constructive dialogue and troubleshooting process to resolve all these issues in the end.”

Abbott’s “very unfortunate” trip to Taiwan

However, one of the most sensitive issues in the relationship is Taiwan, with Australia raising concerns over increased Chinese military pressure against the democratically ruled island of 24 million people, as part of Beijing’s long-term goal of unification.

Dutton told the Australian newspaper last week: “It would be inconceivable if we did not support the United States in action if the United States chose to take this step. “

Responding to Dutton, Wang said Australian politicians should “not do anything that would lead to an even darker state of our relations.”

Wang said former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s visit to Taiwan last month was “very unfortunate.” Abbott – who said he traveled privately – warned that Beijing could come after Taiwan soon and that the United States and Australia could not stand idly by.

Wang said: “In fact, it is very scary to see that such a high level politician is engaging in something that does not serve Australia’s interests, because I think it serves Australia’s interests. Australia and China to stick to one China. policy and make our relationship as smooth as possible.

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