China slams AUKUS pact as 'extremely irresponsible'

Source: 1News / Associated Press.

China's government says the new security pact between Australia, the US and the UK is "extremely irresponsible" and "narrow minded".

Beijing slammed the deal that will see Australia harness the technology to build nuclear powered submarines.

Under the arrangement, Australia will build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines using US expertise, while dumping a contract with France for diesel-electric submarines.

Experts say the nuclear submarines will allow Australia to conduct longer patrols and give the alliance a stronger military presence in the region.

On Thursday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had called the leaders of Japan and India to explain the new alliance. Japan, India, Australia and the US already have a strategic dialogue known as “the Quad”.

Biden is set to host fellow Quad leaders at the White House next week.

The agreement has been viewed as an effort to counter China's influence in the South China sea.

“The most urgent task is for Australia to correctly recognise the reasons for the setbacks in the relations between the two countries, and think carefully whether to treat China as a partner or a threat," said Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Beijing has been unhappy with the Biden administration calling it out over human rights abuses in the Xianjing region, the crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, and cybersecurity breaches.

Biden spoke by phone with China’s President Xi Jinping last week. After the call, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi expressed concerns that US government policy toward China has caused “serious difficulties” in relations.

Left out of the new alliance, though, is Australia's neighbour New Zealand.

Aotearoa has a longstanding nuclear-free policy that includes a ban on nuclear-powered ships entering its ports.

That stance has sometimes been a sticking point in otherwise close relations with the US.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand wasn’t asked to be part of the alliance and wouldn’t have expected an invitation.

Still, it leaves New Zealand out of a deal to share a range of information including artificial intelligence, cyber and underwater defense capabilities.