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US plan to link AUKUS submarine pact to Taiwan riles China

BEIJING (PTI): China on Tuesday said it will resolutely oppose any plan by the Biden administration to connect the AUKUS pact between Australia, the UK, and the US to the Taiwan issue, saying it will risk nuclear proliferation and exacerbate the arms race in the Asia-Pacific.

Reacting to reports quoting US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s recent remarks suggesting linking the AUKUS pact to the Taiwan issue to deter any Chinese aggression, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a media briefing here that the American official’s remarks fan the flames of conflict, and are malicious in intent.

"China is strongly dissatisfied with this and resolutely opposes it," she said, adding that it increases the risk of nuclear proliferation and exacerbates the arms race in the Asia-Pacific region, undermining regional peace and stability.

China claims the self-governing island of Taiwan as part of it and vows to integrate with its mainland.

The AUKUS submarine project could help deter any Chinese move against Taiwan, Campbell was quoted as saying at Washington's Centre for a New American Security think tank last week.

Campbell argued that the 2023 AUKUS pact involving Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered attack submarines was part of efforts to counter China's growing power in the Indo-Pacific region.

He also made a rare linkage between Taiwan and AUKUS, saying that new submarine capabilities would enhance peace and stability, including in the Cross-Strait that separates China and Taiwan.

AUKUS' submarine capabilities "have enormous implications in a variety of scenarios, including in cross-strait circumstances," Campbell was quoted as saying.

Mao said Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory and Taiwan’s issue is its internal affair, which no external force has the right to intervene.

"What is the intention of the US in trying to link the so-called 'trilateral security partnership' submarine plan with the Taiwan question?" Mao asked.

China's will to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering, and no one should underestimate or misjudge it, she said.

Mao also said the US, the UK, and Australia are not direct parties to the South China Sea dispute and should not intervene in efforts by the relevant parties to resolve the issue through negotiation and consultation.

The recent tension in the South China Sea and increased regional confrontation are inseparable from the US actions in roping in its allies, she said, referring to Washington’s backing to the Philippines which during the last few months trying to assert its claim over the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea which is strongly resisted by China.

The coast guard ships of China and the Philippines jostled to assert their claim over the area.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims over the area.

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