British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday sought to play down Chinese fears that a deal to provide Australia with nuclear powered US submarines threatened regional stability.
Johnson told parliament the move, part of a new defence alliance between Britain, Australia and the United States, was “not intended to be adversarial”.
It “will help to safeguard the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific”, he said, adding that the deal reflected “the close relationship that we have with the United States and with Australia, the shared values that we have and the sheer level of trust”.
Britain in March unveiled plans to its strategic focus towards Asia as part of the government’s Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy.
he said “If there was ever any question about Global Britain’s tilt towards the IndoPacific then this partnership with Australia and the US provides the answer”.
The president of the Beijing based Center for China and Globalization think-tank, Henry Wang, told BBC radio the new defence alliance was “part of a Cold War mentality”.
“It amounts to a new pillar of our strategy, demonstrating Britain’s generational commitment to the security of the Indo-Pacific and showing exactly how we can help one of our oldest friends promote regional stability.”
Diplomatic ties between London and Beijing have been strained, notably over concerns about an authoritarian crackdown in Britain’s former colony of Hong Kong.
This week, China’s ambassador to London was banned from speaking to pro-Beijing lawmakers at parliament, after China sanctioned critical British MPs.
France called Australia’s move to secure nuclear-powered subs from the United States “a stab in the back” after it abandoned a contract for diesel-powered subs.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said London was not out to “antagonise the French” but accepted their frustration.
He told the BBC “It’s right that the UK, other allies such as Australia stand up for the rules based system and international law,”.