Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin condemned China’s “aggressive” and “destabilizing” behavior at a press conference Thursday, as they ushered in a major new trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom
Why is this important: China was not explicitly mentioned in President Biden’s announcement of the AUKUS alliance, through which the United States and the United Kingdom will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines in the part of a broader effort to ensure âpeace and stability in the Indo-Pacificâ.
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“I just want to make it very clear that this partnership is not aimed at or involving a single country,” a senior Biden administration official said on Wednesday in a telephone briefing to preview the announcement. Blinken and Austin both echoed this position during the question-and-answer portion of Thursday’s press conference.
But China’s military activities in the Pacific are seen as a major security threat to the United States, and the subtext of the new partnership is clear.
What they say : âThe world saw China’s aggressive response when Australia called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Beijing has seen in recent months that Australia will not back down and threats of retaliation and economic pressure won’t work, âBlinken said. , as he stood alongside Austin and their Australian counterparts.
âWe have spoken in detail about China’s destabilizing activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries, contrary to established rules and norms,â Austin added.
“And while we seek a constructive and results-oriented relationship with the PRC, we will remain lucid about Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order.”
Responding to China’s condemnation of the announcement as indicative of a “cold war mentality,” said Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton: “This is not the first time that we have seen different outbursts from China in terms of the position of Australia. “
“We are a proud democracy in our region. We stand alongside our Indo-Pacific neighbors to ensure lasting peace. And this collaboration makes it a safer region, and that is the reality. No propaganda can. dismiss the facts, âhe said. added.
The big picture: US and Australian officials have also been pressed by the furious backlash from another country, France, which had been working for five years on a $ 90 billion submarine contract with Australia which will now be scrapped.
The New York Times reported to the press that French officials in Washington canceled a gala celebrating US-French relations, ranting over a move that the country’s foreign minister said “sounds a lot like what Mr. Trump is used to do “.
“As the President said last night when announcing this initiative, we strongly, strongly welcome European countries playing an important role in the Indo-Pacific”, declared Blinken, describing France as a particularly “vital” partner and insisting that French officials were informed before the announcement. .
Explaining Australia’s decision, Dutton said military officials felt the country needed nuclear propulsion technology, rather than the conventional diesel submarines France was building, for its security interests:
âThe French have a version which was not superior to that operated by the United States, the United Kingdom. And in the end, the decision we made is based on what is in the best interest of our national security and the prevailing security. and peace in the Indo-Pacific. “
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton
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