China has condemned plans by the UK, US and Australia to provide Canberra with nuclear-powered submarines to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific, warning the countries “had gone further down a dangerous road”.

Spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the comments when asked about the plans under the 2021 AUKUS partnership, which would see Australia receiving three US submarines from the early 2030s.

“The latest joint statement from the US, UK and Australia demonstrates that the three countries, for the sake of their own geopolitical interests, completely disregard the concerns of the international communities and are walking further and further down the path of error and danger,” Mr Wang said at a press briefing Tuesday.

Details of the plan were unveiled during a ceremony at a US naval base in San Diego on Monday, attended by the leaders of all nations. US President Joe Biden called the agreement part of a shared commitment to a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region with two of America’s “most stalwart and capable allies.”

Under the deal, Canberra will buy three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines with an option to purchase two more if required. Mr Biden, however, stressed the submarines were merely nuclear-powered and not nuclear-armed.

President Joe Biden arrives with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, for a news conference at Naval Base Point Loma, Monday, March 13, 2023, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Mr Biden arrives with Mr Albanese and Mr Sunak, right, for the news conference at Naval Base Point Loma (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it “a powerful partnership,” adding: “For the first time ever it will mean three fleets of submarines working together across the Atlantic and Pacific keeping our oceans free … for decades to come.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese defended the eyewatering purchase of A$368 billion (£201 billion) by 2055, saying it was an economic plan, not just a defence and security one.

He hailed the purchase as “the biggest single investment in Australia’s defence capability in our history, strengthening Australia’s national security and stability in our region”.

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Mr Biden said he was not concerned about Beijing potentially perceiving the deal as an act of aggression.

He also said he speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping in the near future, although he fell short of providing a date.

It follows Mr Biden saying in mid-February he expected to talk to Mr Xi about what Washington said was a Chinese spy balloon flown over American airspace, an event which aggravated already tense relations between the two super powers. China has claimed the balloon was a weather satellite.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week the US wanted to re-establish regular communications with China and Mr Biden expected to speak with Mr Xi by telephone sometime after China’s government returns to work following its annual National People’s Congress that ended on Monday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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