China mocks Britain's 'inevitable decline' after nuclear sub deal

China mocks Britain’s ‘inevitable decline after Brexit’ after Rishi Sunak agrees nuclear submarine deal with US and Australia

  • Chinese state media suggests UK in ‘inevitable decline’ in US pivot since Brexit
  • This comes as UK, US and Australia announce trilateral AUKUS submarine deal

Chinese state-affiliated media has warned Britain’s alignment with the United States has ’caused the inevitable decline of the country’s influence after Brexit’, following an increase to British defence spending and a milestone nuclear submarine deal that will see an increased British, US and Australian naval presence around China.  

The Global Times signalled that Britain’s perceived ‘cater[ing] to the strategic goals of the US’ has hurt the country’s influence on the global stage, and that ‘repeated provocations and… hype of the so-called “China threat theory” will negatively impact’ relations with China.

The comments came as Rishi Sunak met with Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in San Diego yesterday to announce a new deal which will allow Australia to buy nuclear submarines from the United States and a new class of boat designed and built in Britain.

The trilateral AUKUS agreement, first announced in 2021, will foster closer military collaboration between the countries in an effort to tackle China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific.

President Biden meets Rishi Sunak in San Diego to announce a deal that will see nuclear-powered subs sent to Australia and will allow Britain to design and build a new class of boat 

President Biden (C) speaks after meeting Australian PM Albanese (L) and British PM Sunak (R) in front of a submarine at Naval Base Point Loma on Monday 13 March 2023 in San Diego

AUKUS will allow Australia to buy three – up to five – nuclear powered submarines from the US, costing the country $368bn over 30 years and allowing it to join an exclusive club of seven operators worldwide with nuclear-powered strategic submarines

President Biden said Monday he would speak with Mr Jinping soon, but said he was not concerned that he would see the announcement as an act of aggression. 

However, Xi Jinping warned China would strengthen its military in response to the AUKUS plan.

The Chinese foreign ministry also accused the US, UK and Australia of treading a ‘path of error and danger’ that will result in ‘years of confrontation’ following the signing of a new pact that will deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

READ MORE:  Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden discuss ‘increased assertiveness of the Chinese Communist Party’ as pair agree to transatlantic visits and UK, US and Australia strike multi-billion-pound deal to develop nuclear-powered submarines


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: ‘the latest joint statement from the US, UK and Australia demonstrates that the three countries… disregard the concerns of the international communities and are walking further and further down the path of error and danger.’

The Chinese mission to the United Nations said the UK and US were violating the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in transferring weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear weapons power. 

US President Joe Biden has stressed that Australia will not receive nuclear weapons as part of the deal.

The vessels will not be nuclear-armed and the NPT allows the transfer of fissile material for non-weapons use, like naval propulsion, without the need for monitoring by the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Announced in 2021, AUKUS will enable wider cooperation between the US, UK and Australia in confronting perceived threats around the world.

Australia will be able to buy at least three nuclear-powered submarines with US technology, spending up to $368bn over 30 years.

The US will also partner with Britain to build a new SSN-AUKUS class of submarine based on a British design and creating thousands of new jobs. 

Nuclear-powered submarines, independent of reliance on air, do not need to surface frequently.

They also have a significant performance advantages, refueling less frequently and traveling for longer at top speeds.

They were initially proposed by the US Navy in 1939 and researched by the British Navy immediately after World War II.

The bilateral 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement saw the first British-designed submarine fitted with an American reactor.

Today, the US, Britain, France, India, China and Russia deploy some form of nuclear-powered submarines.

Despite bolstering ties with allies and investing in naval innovation, not all are convinced Britain’s latest reinforcements will be enough to face down a foreign threat.

MPs and retired generals tore into the Treasury’s new defence settlement yesterday, as £5bn was set aside for the next two years.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace came under fire in the Commons after the Government set out its defence and security priorities. These included an additional £3billion for nuclear submarines and £2billion to purchase equipment donated to Ukraine.

Wallace was previously fighting to boost the defence budget by £11bn. 

Six countries currently have nuclear-powered submarines. Data shared in 2021 revealed the US and Russia to have 25 between them. This is changing as fleets are retired and renewed. Britain’s seven submarines in operation may grow to 19 under the new AUKUS deal. Ballistic missiles can be conventional weapons or, in some cases, equipped with nuclear warheads

The Virginia-class USS North Dakota, similar to the submarines that Australia will buy 

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that the AUKUS deal represents the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability ‘in all of our history’ as Britain and the United States seek trusted Asia-facing allies.

Albanese noted the deal will make Australia the second country, after Britain, to receive American naval nuclear secrets.

The island nation will receive three conventionally armed, nuclear-powered Virginia class vessels ‘over the course of the 2030s’, possibly increasing to five, according to President Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan.

Acquiring submarines powered by nuclear reactors will put Australia at the forefront of American-led efforts to push back against perceived Chinese military expansion.

Tensions continue to rise over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and China’s growing military presence.

China lays claim to the about 90% of the South China Sea, justified with maritime records from dynastic times and referencing a ‘nine dash line’ that cuts into some nations’ exclusive economic zones.

China’s claims include an estimated 11bn barrels of untapped oil and 190trn cubic ft of natural gas.

The claims are contested by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The United States maintains that claimant countries, according to a UN convention, should have freedom of navigation through ‘exclusive economic zones’, and are not required to notify China of any military activities in the region.

A reinforced Australian presence in the area is seen as an affront to Chinese hegemony.

However, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday cited the invasion of Ukraine, the ‘destabilizing behavior’ of Iran and North Korea, and China’s assertiveness in the region, as reasons for strengthening the partnership.

The UK and the US will look to establish a Submarine Rotational Force near Western Australia to strengthen the allied sphere of influence in the region.

Britain will also receive replacements for its current fleet of Astute-class nuclear submarines, operational since 2014, to support the joint maritime ambitions.

The Chinese Mission to the UN took to Twitter to air concerns about the AUKUS deal

Xi Jinping said China would bolster its forces in response to the AUKUS deal. Pictured: Chinese Chengdu J-7 fighter jets, in operation since 1966

In a series of tweets, the Chinese mission to the UN said: ‘The irony of AUKUS is that two nuclear weapons states who claim to uphold the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard are transferring tons of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear-weapon state, clearly violating the object and purpose of the NPT.

‘Such a textbook case of double standard will damage the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation system.

‘We urge the trio to honour their obligations as members of the NPT and respond to the (will) of the international community.’

At a launch ceremony at a US naval base, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the AUKUS agreement was dedicated to keeping the oceans ‘free, open and prosperous’ and ‘maintaining freedom, peace, and security now and for generations to come’.

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