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Canberra being yes-man of troublemaking US: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-11-22 21:05

People are silhouetted against the Sydney Opera House at sunset in Australia, on Nov 2, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Australia formally kick-started a controversial program on Monday to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines in a new defense alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom, by signing an agreement allowing the exchange of sensitive "naval nuclear propulsion information" between the nations. 

It is the first agreement on the technology to be publicly signed since the three countries announced in September the formation of their alliance, known as AUKUS, which is obviously aimed at confronting China in the Asia-Pacific. The contract to share nuclear technology will see Australia acquire at least eight nuclear submarines in the years to come, posing a great challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. 

Canberra has said its decision to join the program is merely to develop its own submarine capacity. That can only be taken with a pinch of salt. An earlier plan to buy 12 diesel-powered submarines from France would have enabled it to achieve that objective. Yet Australia reneged on that deal in favor of banding itself more closely with the US through nuclear cooperation even though that betrayal of trust has raised concerns among the US' other allies that it is abandoning them for an exclusive Anglo-Saxon club.

The nuclear submarine deal will not help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, as Canberra claims. It will only trigger an arms race and make regional peace and stability even more uncertain. 

Moreover, the agreement will "amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the US with only one objective: the ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the US against China," as former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating observed. "This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the US will rob Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement." 

China has never been a threat to Australia. Rather it is the largest trading partner of the country, and their close economic relations have benefited both tremendously. 

It is incomprehensible that Canberra has taken an increasingly hostile policy toward China to the detriment of its own long-term interests. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison thus contradicted himself when he said he was open to dialogue with China "whenever the Chinese president and other ministers within the Chinese system are happy to meet with Australia". What his government has been doing — antagonizing China on whatever fronts the US opens — is actually making any meaningful dialogue between the two countries virtually impossible. 

For its own national interests, Australia should try to become an upholder of peace in the region, rather than a yes-man at troublemaking Uncle Sam's beck and call.

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